06 October 2010

A ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union suggests that fathers who take advantage of new rights to additional paternity leave from next April could qualify for the same rights and benefits as women who take additional maternity leave.

The case concerned a Spanish scheme allowing parents to take time off work to look after a child, but the scheme was applied differently to men and women. Where all employed mothers were eligible for the leave, employed fathers were not entitled to the same leave unless the child's mother was also an employee.

The CJEU ruled that this disparity in treatment constituted sex discrimination. Although women can be afforded special treatment to protect their biological condition following pregnancy or to protect 'the special relationship between a mother and her child', the CJEU noted that the leave in question was not directed at either of those aims. This was evidenced by the fact that the leave could be taken by the mother or the father without distinction.

Roca Álvarez v Sesa Start Espana