As there has been much press recently about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, we thought it timely to provide a run-down of employment rights in relation to same sex couples.

Where a child is born into a female same sex relationship, the woman who has given birth is naturally entitled to maternity leave and pay subject to certain qualifying conditions in the same way as a woman in an opposite sex relationship. The mother’s partner will be entitled to take paternity leave even if the couple have not entered into a civil partnership or got married because someone who is the ‘partner’ of the mother i.e. a person who lives with the mother in an enduring family relationship but is not a relative of the mother meets the eligibility criteria.

Where a child is adopted into a same sex relationship, one of the parents will be able to take adoption leave and receive statutory adoption pay, subject to other eligibility criteria, and it is for the parents to decide which one that will be. The other parent may be entitled to paternity leave and pay.

Plans are also afoot to extend some family friendly legislation to employees who are receiving a child in a surrogacy arrangement, including rights to time off to attend ante-natal appointments, and the right to take adoption leave.

In general, where employment legislation refers to husband or wife in conferring rights on employees in relation to their spouse, this also refers to civil partners, having the effect that couples who have entered into a civil partnership are also capable of achieving eligibility to avail themselves of that right.

Where contractual rights are concerned, it is potentially discriminatory to offer a benefit e.g. health insurance or time off after their wedding ceremony to your employees, that they, as a married individual, can benefit from if you do not also offer that benefit to employees who have entered into a civil partnership. A similar attitude should be taken when the contractual right provides the benefit individually to the employee’s wife, husband or civil partner.

It is not a requirement that those benefits are offered to same sex couples who have not entered into a civil partnership although where benefits are offered to employees in opposite sex relationships, these should also be made available to employees in same sex relationships.

Where previously it was open for an employee to claim they have been discriminated against on the grounds that they are married and not single, it is also open for an employee in a civil partnership to claim they have been discriminated against because they are not single.

For clarification please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.