Here are this week’s headlines, brought to you by our Student Commercial Awareness Team:
Reported by Radhika Morally
The current appeal of the employment tribunal case Ali v Capita Customer Management Limited (Capita) has brought issues concerning shared parental leave to the forefront.
The mechanism of shared parental leave was introduced by the Government in April 2015, which allowed parents to share the maternity leave following the birth of their baby. This can consist of time off separately or together, 37 weeks of which will be paid.
Despite the fact that around 285,000 couples are eligible every year for the scheme, the Department for Business has said those taking the opportunity ‘could be as low as 2%.’
Why is this?
A large part of the problem is simply due to a lack of awareness. According to the government, around half of the general public are still unaware that the option is available to them, nearly three years after its introduction.
Experts have also suggested that along with this is the issue of cultural barriers; gender stereotypes assign leave solely to the mother.
Furthermore, financial penalties act as a deterrent. Where mothers working for the same employer are entitled to contractual enhanced maternity pay, fathers are only entitled to the statutory rate of parental pay which is currently £140.98 a week. Unlike maternity leave, shared parental leave is not a right that fathers are entitled to at the outset of employment. This has raised questions as to the fairness of the scheme; the number of couples taking the opportunity is largely influenced by individual company policy, therefore lacking uniformity.
The government has launched a £1.5m campaign, named ‘share the joy’, to better inform parents about the policy, which will consist of a digital advertising drive, particularly through social media.
The effectiveness of this is debatable as it appears to be the limitations of the shared parental leave policy, particularly in regard to the financial disparities, that is the main issue. In reality, for parental leave to be a feasible option for both parents, consideration should be given to increasing the statutory or contractual rates of pay to equal the rate that the woman is entitled to. A cross party group of MPs have written a letter to Equalities Secretary Justine Greening, expressing such sentiments.
The positive correlation between equal shared-leave entitlements and uptake has been demonstrated in other countries and regions such as Iceland, Quebec and Portugal, where the uptake is currently at 91%, 86% and 63% respectively. Duncan Fisher, who manages policy and innovation for the Family Initiative, recommends that the £1.5m be contributed towards designing a new system that caters for what parents want.
- High Court overturns decision of parole board in Worboys case
Reported by Anna-Mei Harvey
Worboys, a serial sex offender, has had his initial parole decision overturned in the High Court. Two of Worboys’ victims challenged the earlier decision of the parole board to release him after serving ten years of his indeterminate sentence.
Following the decision, the ex-Chair of the Parole Board, Professor Nick Hardwick, resigned. On Tuesday, David Gauke had declared his position ‘untenable.’ This is controversial as the parole board is an independent, executive body.
In his letter of resignation, Hardwick highlighted that the judgment concluded the panel’s view that it could not consider things beyond the offences for which Worboys was convicted, as “mistaken.”
Despite this, Hardwick alleges that evidence supplied by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to the board, was ‘insufficient in detail’ in relation to Worboys’ alleged, broader, offending.
£41,000 was awarded in 2014 to the victims, following poor initial handling of the case by the Metropolitan Police (Met). Failure to investigate after the first victim’s report is believed to have led to a larger than necessary number of victims. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the Met had failed in its civic duty to serve victims of a heinous crime. Lord Kerr advised that “failures in the investigation of the crimes […] will give rise to liability on the part of the police.”
Whilst the two victims of Worboys have won their case, there is an urgent need to reconsider the handling of rape charges and convictions. At present, only 5.7% of reported cases result in the accused being convicted. Compare that with the number of cases reported annually, 82,000 women and 12,000 men.
More needs to be done to ensure that victims of such ‘heinous’ crimes receive justice. Following the ruling in February, the poor handling of such cases by the police needs to be remedied, otherwise they shall face the consequences.
- NAGALRO Annual Conference 2018: Adoption and Contact
Reported by Anna Flaherty
Lord Justice McFarlane recently delivered a speech on post-adoption contact, highlighting how the system may not have the welfare of the child as its central focus.
He discussed two recent pieces of legislation which affected contact in family law by some means (Adoption and Children Act [ACA] 2002 and the Children and Families Act 2014) and pointed out how the “sea of change” that they were meant to bring about did not occur. As a result, parents’ contact with their child once they have been adopted by another family is generally “limited to the letterbox”. This has now been the norm for decades.
He then went on to illustrate how contact can be of help with a child’s long term development, and that in light of the developments of social media, there is actually little the adopted family can do to prevent/monitor contact between the child and their natural family. The idea that a child has the right to know their origins and genetic roots is prevalent within this area of law. Legislation has been created to enable this right, with s51A ACA 2002 allowing contact to be reviewed after a certain number of years, acting as a bridge to a young person’s routes.
However, in practice the law has remained static, with letterbox contact being seen as the norm, even where the natural parents pose no risk to the child. The law here is focused upon the child’s legal status post-adoption, rather than on the emotional realities the child is facing in this situation, where there may be a crisis in identity.
This is worrying once compared to contact disputes where there is domestic violence involved. In many of these cases, unless there is obvious, physical abuse, the court tends to overlook the issue. In some cases they overlook the physical abuse anyway, as granting fathers contact is deemed by legal professionals as the “norm”. (See Adrienne Barnett for more)
Comparing the two types of contact cases highlights the main issue; parents will not be granted contact where there is no risk of harm in post-adoption cases, but that abusive fathers will be granted contact even where there is serious risk to their welfare. In other words, there is a willing ignorance towards welfare in contact cases, with the legal system preferring to simply give a rubber stamp of approval without giving cases a deeper consideration as to what would be in the child’s best interests.
Overall, Lord Justice McFarlane suggested that a more open approach should be considered in post-adoption contact cases, with a greater consideration of welfare.
Read more here.
- Spy poisoning: In tit-for-tat measure, Russia expels 60 US diplomats
Reported by Nathan Gore
These diplomats were expelled as a direct response by Russia to the recent wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats in various Western countries. These expulsions happened as a result of the poisoning and attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury, UK.
More than 150 Russian envoys have been expelled from over 20 countries, in an extraordinary move. These countries undertook this action in a show of solidarity with the UK, after they held Russia responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, then announced that they would be responding by expelling an equal amount of diplomats from these countries. He declared 58 US diplomats in Moscow and two in the city of Yekaterinburg to be “persona non grata”
He said that Moscow was responding to “absolutely unacceptable actions that are taken against us under very harsh pressure from the United States and Britain under the pretext of the so-called Skripal case”.
Responding to this news, a US state department spokeswoman commented that Russia’s actions were a demonstration of the fact that it is simply not interested in good relations with these other countries.
Yulia Skripal has now been reported as ‘conscious and talking’, whilst her father Mr Skripal remains in a critical, but stable condition.