Recent research has shown that dads are not taking up their right to shared parental leave and it is still mum who is taking the time off work to look after the baby. One common suggestion as to why this is the case is because many employers offer enhanced maternity pay for mothers on maternity leave but simply pay the statutory rates to those taking shared parental leave.
One very recent case brings hope for dads who are deterred from taking parental leave because of finances. In Ali v Capita Customer Management Ltd , the Employment Tribunal ruled that it was direct sex discrimination not to grant the same level of pay to fathers taking parental leave, compared to mothers on maternity leave (who got 14 weeks at full pay before moving onto statutory rates).
However, this case is being appealed so it remains to be seen whether the decision is upheld as good law, particularly as it has generally been accepted that the correct comparator for a dad taking shared parental leave is a woman taking shared parental leave as a both sexes have an entitlement to take this type of family leave (whereas maternity leave can only be taken by the pregnant woman). By way of illustration, shared parental leave could be taken by, for example, the mother's male husband or her female civil partner and they would both qualify for whatever pay is attached to the shared parental leave scheme so it is arguably not discriminatory because of sex.
We wait to see how this case concludes but in the meantime, employers may wish to be cautious about having family leave schemes that pay differing amounts.
Just 250 fathers officially took shared parental leave in Wales last year. This was compared to 27,650 mothers taking maternity leave according to figures obtained by BBC Wales from HMRC for 2016/17. It means less than 1% of new fathers in Wales received payment for shared parental leave to look after their newborn children. The figures are for the first full financial year since shared parental leave was introduced in 2015. The Freedom of Information request also found in England 6,100 fathers and 542,850 mothers received a statutory payment to take time off work with their children.