Is it discriminatory to pay men and women differently during periods of shared parental leave? That was the question before the Tribunal in Snell v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd ETS/4100178/2016.

In this case Mr Snell argued that his employer’s family friendly policy amounted to sex discrimination, as it provided for enhanced parental pay for mothers during periods of shared parental leave, but only statutory payments for fathers.

The case was not contested, and so the legal issues were not fully considered, but the remedy judgment stated that the treatment amounted to indirect discrimination because of Mr Snell’s sex.

There was indirect discrimination because the mother (who would always be female) was entitled to an enhanced rate of parental pay, but her partner was only entitled to statutory parental pay. Whilst the partner could be male or female, and so on the face of it all ‘partners’ were treated the same, a male could never be a ‘mother’ under the provisions of the policy and so would never be entitled to the enhanced payments. Whether such treatment could be justified remains to be tested in the Tribunal.

A scheme that provided enhanced parental pay or statutory parental pay for all would not be discriminatory. Unfortunately, going forward, Network Rail amended their policy so that all those taking shared parental leave receive statutory payments only.

As the law changes, employers who fail to ensure that their policies keep up to date with the law may find themselves on the receiving end of Tribunal claims. Employers should ensure that their policies accurately reflect the current legislation and entitlements of their employees.

If you feel that your employer has discriminated against you, if you feel that any of their policies may put you at a disadvantage, or if you have any other questions about your employment rights, then we can help.

Here at Beecham Peacock we have a trusted relationship with some of the largest trade unions in the country to protect your working rights. For further information call us on 0191 232 3048 or email

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