In April last year we posted a blog on the change in law on paternity leave focussing on the new right to Additional Paternity Leave (APL) which came into force on 6 April 2010. Under this, eligible employees whose children are due to be born on or after 3 April 2011 will have the right to take up to 6 months’ APL. The right will also apply in the case of adoptions where parents are notified of a match on or after 3 April 2011.
Since the implementation of the right to take APL, a question has arisen on whether an employer who offers an enhanced maternity pay package to its female employees should also offer enhanced paternity pay to those employees who take APL.
This issue has become particularly pressing since a recent ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Spanish case of Roca Álvarez v Sesa Start España ETT SA (ECJ Case C-104/09). Spanish law provides that female employees are entitled to time off during the course of the working day to feed a child under the age of 9 months. This right was originally introduced to facilitate breastfeeding by working mothers. However, this right was subsequently developed so as to allow fathers to take this leave provided both parents were employed. Therefore mothers who are employed were always entitled to this leave while fathers who also have employed status would only be so entitled if the child’s mother is also an employed person. This difference under the provision was held by the CJEU to amount to sex discrimination. In reaching this decision, the CJEU noted that the purpose of this leave was no longer strictly associated with breastfeeding but was actually a measure which reconciled family life and work for both parents. Therefore this purpose could be achieved by fathers taking the time off work as well as mothers. In addition, the fact that this leave could be taken by the father meant that this measure could not be regarded as being to ensure the protection of the special relationship between a mother and her child.