By Allison Grant, Partner, for Lester Aldridge LLP
With Father’s Day approaching, many men who are to become fathers for the first time (by birth or adoption) or who are having or adopting another child, may be wondering what rights they have to time off as the child’s father.
Fathers of children born or matched for adoption on or after 3 April 2011 will be entitled to new paternity leave rights of a period additional to paternity leave and an increased statutory paternity leave pay of £124.88 per week.
Under previous legislation, fathers were entitled to two weeks ordinary paternity leave (OPL) within the first 56 days of the child’s life or adoption placement which will be paid at £124.88 per week.
The new Regulations give eligible fathers the right to take between 2 to 26 weeks additional paternity leave (APL) within the first year of the child’s life. Any APL must be taken in multiples of complete weeks and consecutively.
To be entitled to take APL, the father must have been employed by their employer for at least 26 consecutive weeks at the 15th week before the expected week of child or adoption placement.
So can a father take APL at the same time as his partner is on maternity leave?
As a father, they will only be able to take APL between 20 weeks and 12 months after the child was born or placed for adoption providing their partner has returned to work with some of their statutory maternity/adoption leave remaining. They will not be able to take APL whilst their partner is also on maternity/adoption leave.
The aim is to allow both partners to share the responsibility for caring for a new born or newly adopted child.
A father taking APL will need to be able to satisfy their employer that their partner has returned to work and has not used all of their maternity leave entitlement.
So will a father be paid APL?
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is currently paid during the first 39 weeks of maternity leave. If the person on maternity leave returns to work before using all of their SMP entitlement, the person taking APL will be entitled to claim £124.88 per week for the equivalent remainder of the SMP entitlement period.
Some employers have enhanced payment schemes for OPL and APL and will need to ensure that employees are paid in accordance with their policies where the additional entitlements exist.
What information should an employer expect to receive when someone applies for APL?
The APL regime is intended to be one of self-certification and employers may require:
A leave notice;
An employee declaration*; and
A mother’s declaration.
*HMRC has produced a SC7 form which employers may adopt for this purpose if they do not have their own versions.
This is still a relatively new right and it is not known how many people will take up this entitlement or the impact that it will have on a business. However, what is important is that employers are aware of the entitlement and that policies and procedures are up to date to reflect the rights.