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Shared parental leave and pay: discrimination issues

Shared parental leave and pay: discrimination issues

By Catherine Richmond

When I told my friend two years ago that I had spent my morning wading through the government’s proposals to introduce shared parental leave, he asked hopefully whether that was something to help frazzled parents get away from the kids for a few days (he takes care of his full-time). It was hard to disappoint him. But he was enthusiastic about the prospect of leaving behind the outdated assumption that it is always the mother and not the father that will be responsible for the care of a baby for the whole of its first year. It was no surprise to me to read in BIS’s latest survey (press release on 15 January 2015: Majority of UK believe that childcare should be shared equally between couples) that more dads than mums would have considered shared parental leave when their children were babies. That first year is such a precious time and it seems only fair that dads get an opportunity to enjoy it too.

But how will the law achieve a balance between the fact that whilst a man can care for a baby just as well as a woman, it is the woman who is pregnant, gives birth, may breastfeed, and initially is likely to have the strongest bond with the child? To what extent does the law permit an employer to treat a mother more favourably than a father? In this article, published in this month’s edition of ELA Briefing (the monthly publication of the Employment Lawyers Association, www.elaweb.org.uk,  I examine one particular type of more favourable treatment for the mother: paying her enhanced shared parental pay (ShPP).

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