Does maternity leave and paternity leave differ in the eyes of Irish employment legislation? Our employment law and HR experts review a recent equality claim brought before the Workplace Relations Commission in relation to parental leave…

Background of the Case

In the case of An Area Manager v A Transport Company ADJ-0000577, the Workplace Relations Commission ruled that there was no discrimination when the company chose to top up salaries for maternity leave, but not paternity leave.

Since the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016, many organisations have amended their handbooks/policies to change their existing paternity leave to be in line with current legislation. In this case, the Transport Company had provided three day’s paid paternity leave prior to the legislation being enacted.

Once the Act had been introduced, they felt there was enough protective legislation in place, so they decided to terminate this scheme, advising employees that they would receive the statutory paternity benefit only.

Another key fact, in this case, was that if a female employee did not work up enough D1 PRSI classification she would not be entitled to statutory payment, but the organisation would give female employees full pay for 26 weeks of maternity leave. If they had enough PRSI paid, then the organisation would top up their payment to their normal basic pay for the 26 weeks.

The complainant did not work up enough D1 PRSI classification (meaning he was not entitled to statutory paternity payment), but the organisation would not pay him the two weeks’ payment resulting in him being unable to take this time off as he had intended.

The complainant brought a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission alleging that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of gender, which is governed by the Employment Equality Act 1998-2015.

Outcome 

The Adjudication Officer ruled that topping up female salaries during maternity leave, and not topping up paternity leave, was not discriminatory, as the Irish legal system protects maternity leave to a very high standard and it is completely different to paternity leave.

Every organisation has a right make special provisions for women in connection with pregnancy and maternity, given the special protection that are in place both in Irish and EU Law.

If you have any questions regarding maternity leave or paternity leave entitlements, please contact our 24 Hour Advice Service on 01 855 50 50