By Claire West

Businesses and their employees don’t understand the new paternity laws according to Myers Lister Price Solicitors.

Tom Saville, an employment lawyer from Myers Lister Price Solictors, says he has been inundated by enquiries from bosses of SMEs worried about how new regulations will affect their businesses.

The new paternity leave rules, which will apply to parents of a child born on or after 3 April 2011, legally allow men to share time off work with their partners during their baby’s first year, meaning parents can take off six months each.

Tom Saville said: “It has become apparent many small businesses are confused by the new rules and whether they will be affected. Despite being exempt from new domestic regulation, businesses with fewer than 10 employees are still required to comply with paternity rights.

“Any man who has been with his employer on a fixed contract for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due, is entitled to additional paternity leave (APL).

“This means dads can take up to 26 weeks’ leave, on top of two weeks of ordinary paternity leave, providing the leave is taken 20 or more weeks after the baby’s birth. General paternity leave can be taken up to 56 days after the baby is born.”

Tom Saville added: “Many small to medium sized businesses simply don’t have the resources such as an HR department to process claims and arrange cover.

“Whilst the new rules are good news for dads-to-be, many small businesses need to address how they will administer employees taking paternity leave as soon as possible. They need to be ready for the inevitable.”