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Discrimination and paternity leave

View profile for Maria Chadwick
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Discrimination and paternity leave

Under the Equality Act 2010 an employer must not discriminate against an employee; in the way they afford an employee access, or by not affording an employee access, to opportunities for promotion, transfer or training or for receiving any other benefit, facility or service.

A benefit which is therefore covered by this section is paid paternal leave which currently permits parents to share up to 52 weeks of leave incorporating up to 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay/allowance.

A father has recently won a landmark discrimination case after his employer threatened to cut his wages following his request to take paternity leave.

It is reported that after his wife was diagnosed with post-natal depression, Madasar Ali requested to take paternity leave from his employer in order to care for his newborn daughter. Following this request, it has been found that the employer stated that if he was to take such leave they would reduce his pay to the statutory minimum after two weeks. However, women at the firm were entitled to receive 14 weeks’ leave at full pay rates in the same circumstances.

Upon issuing a claim against his employer for these actions, the employment tribunal held that Mr Ali had been the victim of discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010, specifically section 39 (2) (b) of this act.

The tribunal also stated that the employer were in breach of the newly introduced shared parental leave regulations of 2015 which now allow parents to share up to 52 weeks of leave and 39 weeks of pay.

This is the first reported instance where a father has successfully relied upon these regulations in the employment tribunal, since their implementation.

It is reported that during the course of the proceedings employment judge Rogerson stated, Either parent can perform the role of caring for their baby in its first year depending on the circumstances and choices made by the parents. Inevitably more mothers will take primary responsibility from birth and immediately afterwards but that does not necessarily follow.”

Mr Ali was also successful in claiming that his employer had then subjected him to victimisation following his request for paternity leave as it was established in the tribunal proceedings that they had subsequently altered his role within the company without sufficient reason and threatened him with disciplinary action should he have taken the leave.

It is believed by some that this precedent may have paved the way for many similar claims being successfully made in the future. It also possibly demonstrates the way in which society’s views have recently changed towards fathers and their caring responsibilities within a legal context.

If you would like advice regarding any discrimination matter or are unsure if you might have a claim, our specialist discrimination law team are able to help on 01616 966 229.