Parents of children born on or after 3 April this year will have more flexibility in relation to their childcare arrangements as the father will be able to take more time off work as additional paternity leave. This will give fathers more opportunity to share the responsibility of childcare with mothers.
The new right to additional paternity leave is now in force and will affect parents of children born or on or after 3 April 2011 and to adoptive parents who are notified that they have been matched with a child on or after that date.
Currently fathers are entitled to take either one or two consecutive weeks paternity leave – Ordinary Paternity Leave (OPL). However, the right to Additional Paternity Leave (APL) means that fathers will be able to take up to 26 weeks of leave in the first year of a child’s life provided the child’s mother (or primary adopter) returns to work.
The earliest a period of APL can commence is 20 weeks from the date of the child’s birth or placement for adoption.
If the APL is taken during the mother’s maternity pay period, paternity leave will be paid at the same rate as statutory maternity pay, provided the mother (or primary adopter) has not exhausted her entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay.
An employee wanting to take additional paternity leave must give a minimum of eight weeks’ notice and submit completed self-certification forms, including a declaration that the mother will return to work.
The same employees that are eligible for OPL are eligible for APL, - the father of a child or the spouse, partner or civil partner of the child’s mother or the child’s adopter provided they have responsibility for the upbringing of the child.
A parent needs to have 26 weeks’ continuous employment by the end of the week immediately proceeding to the 14th week before the child’s expected week of childbirth or the week in which the child’s adopter is notified of being matched with the child and remain in employment with the same employer until he intends to take APL.
The right applies to parents of babies due on or after 3 April 2011 and to adoptive parents notified that they have been matched with a child after that date.
The introduction of this new right perhaps reflects a culture change where childcare is increasingly seen as a joint responsibility of both sexes, particularly in households where the mother is the breadwinner. Nonetheless, this new right may initially be slow on the up take as both employers and employers adjust to this new right but once established parents may increasingly take advantage of additional paternity leave. Employers will of course need to be aware that this is a legal right with teeth and employees will be protected from detrimental treatment and dismissal for reasons connected with both OPL and APL.
In preparation for the new right coming into force it is a good idea for employers to update (or introduce) paternity and maternity policies to guide managers through the procedure for dealing with this new right and also to prevent abuse. We would also advise introducing new paternity leave request forms together with father and mother declaration forms and updating adoption policies.
Marie van der Zyl, Partner, Davenport Lyons