In a landmark ruling at the Court of Appeal, a judge has found in favour of Capita and the Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police. They had been accused of discrimination for not offering fathers on shared parental leave (SPL) the equivalent of the enhanced maternity pay that they offered to mothers on maternity leave. Helen Colechin from The HR Dept South London explains the rationale behind the decision, and what the impact is likely to be.

Helen explains: “The question at the heart of the case was, ‘Is sex discrimination or a breach of equal pay legislation occurring?’. The judge said no, reasoning that employers are not in the wrong because on a like for like basis maternity leave and SPL are not comparable.

“The key distinction, the judge stated, is that maternity leave is reserved for women who’ve given birth. It is designed to allow them to recover, and gives time to begin breastfeeding, develop their ‘special bond’ and care for the new-born. SPL on the other hand is designed to aid parents in making practical childcare arrangements.”

The judge reinforced this logic with a host of other differences that exist between the two types of leave. Do note that because the ruling is based on the difference between maternity leave and SPL, it does not provide protection to employers offering unequal pay to male and female employees solely within SPL.

On the impact of this ruling, Helen says: “If this decision had gone the other way, it would have put a big burden on businesses, particularly SMEs. The fear was that rather than uplift shared parental leave pay for fathers they would remove the enhanced benefit associated with maternity pay, if they were offering it. Now business owners who wish to offer enhanced maternity pay (and the mothers-to-be who work for them) can breathe easy