A dad is taking legal action against his employer in bid to ensure equal pay for all workers who apply for parental leave.
Barry Price is appealing after his sex discrimination claim against his employer, Powys County Council, was rejected by a tribunal last year.
The 37-year-old argues it is discriminatory that dads, and other parents, are not entitled to the same enhanced pay rates as birth mothers, on maternity leave, and adoptive parents.
But the local authority said that its policy is in line with national laws.
It added that its policy does not discriminate against men as the pay “is the same irrespective of gender,” applying equally to women who are not the birth mother.
Barry’s daughter, Eliza, is now 17 months old.
He and his wife, Laura Thomas, had hoped to make use of his employers shared parental leave scheme so that Laura could return to work a few weeks after giving birth while Barry would be a stay-at-home dad.
But, less than a month before his daughter was due, and having been “left in limbo” for 13-weeks, Barry received news his application for enhanced parental leave had been rejected.
“This meant that as a father I couldn’t afford to take time off, and missed out on spending time with my daughter during this incredibly important time in our lives,” he wrote.
Barry, a youth justice worker, took his employer to a tribunal in September last year. He admits he was “completely out of his depth” as he tried to represent himself against his employer’s barrister, who had at least three decades worth of experience.
After losing the case, Barry and Laura set up an online petition demanding equal parental leave pay – which has so far gained more than 1,500 signatures.
He is now launching an appeal and is looking to raise £5,000 to cover the costs of a solicitor and barrister.
Speaking to EachOther, he said: “It is depressing that in 2020 there is still a glaring chasm between the expectations of mums and dads.
He said that he supports the council in offering birth mothers and adoptive parents enhanced pay rates.
But added: “What I disagree with, is the fact that biological dads are not entitled to these enhanced pay and provisions.”
These laws prohibit public authorities from discriminating against people on the basis of a set of “protected characteristics”.
Under the HRA, these characteristics include “sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status”.
Under the Equality Act, it includes: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, being pregnant and on maternity leave, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Barry argues that the UK should follow in the example of Sweden, where both parents are eligible for up to 240 days parental leave.
The United Nations children’s agency Unicef announced last week that it had equalised its parental leave policy for all of its UK employees, encouraging other organisations to follow suit.
The agency estimates only around two-to-eight percent of eligible dads are making use of shared parental leave, citing financial restrictions as the main obstacle.
What Does The Council Say?
A Powys County Council spokeswoman said: “The council’s policy on parental pay is based upon national statutory requirements, which affect both partners equally.
“The council’s shared parental leave policy does not discriminate against males as the pay is the same irrespective of gender and it applies equally to females who are not the birth mother.
“Furthermore, the policy of paying the statutory rate and not an enhanced rate is justified in that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim of supporting the health and well-being of birth mothers and to ensure they do not feel pressurised to return to work earlier than their health and well-being dictates. The enhanced pay is also a proportionate means of achieving that aim.
“Mr Price’s specific request for shared parental leave pay was rejected by the council. The Employment Tribunal has endorsed and accepted that this rejection does not amount to sex discrimination, either directly or indirectly.
“In coming to this conclusion, the tribunal followed a recent Court of Appeal decision, which clarified that any disadvantage claimed by the difference in pay was justified as being a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, namely the special treatment of mothers in connection with pregnancy and childbirth.
“An employer is therefore justified in treating maternity pay and maternity leave as a special case, thereby avoiding discrimination claims by men seeking comparable rights.
“Our policy on shared parental leave should not be amended until such time as the law is changed at a national level.”
- For Barry’s Crowd Justice page click here.