Recent changes to paternity rights now mean that new fathers can take up to six months additional paternity leave, following the birth of a new baby, if the mother returns to work within the first year. Employment laywer, Phillip Harding from Tallents Solicitors in Newark, explains the changes and answers key questions for parents. Says Phillip,

“The new arrangements entitled ‘Additional Paternity Leave and Statutory Paternity Pay’ (APL & ASPP) became law on 3rd April 2011 and apply to any baby due on or adopted after this date. In essence, parents are now legally entitled to share the ‘Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay’ (ML & SMP) or ‘Maternity Allowance’ (MA) to allow for continuous childcare during the baby’s first year.”

He continues,

“Currently, the new mother is entitled to take up to a year off work, which is a combination of paid and unpaid leave. She can get six weeks of maternity leave at 90% of her salary, then 33 weeks of statutory maternity pay. After this period, she can also take a further 13 weeks of unpaid leave. During this period of time the employer has to keep their job open.

“Under the changes, if the mother decides to go back to work sooner, then the father can ask their employer to grant them additional leave to allow them to care for the baby.”

Phillip says,

“There are many questions regarding this change in the law, so I have answered some key questions for parents.”

  As a new father, how long can I have off work?

“You can take a maximum of 26 weeks additional paternity leave. This is on top of the two weeks’ paid leave you will get after the birth of your baby.”

Can we both take leave at the same time?

“No, you can’t.  These changes are designed to let you both share the potential leave granted during the baby’s first year.”

So, when can I start my leave as a father?

“No sooner than 20 weeks (four months) after the birth. If the mother returns to work at this point then you can receive the statutory maternity pay to which she was entitled until the child reaches 39 weeks of age. For the remaining seven weeks, the APL is unpaid.”

Do I automatically qualify for this leave?

“You must have had a continuous contract with your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due. Unfortunately, if you’re self-employed, a freelancer or on a short-term contract, then you won’t qualify for this leave.

“It’s also worth noting that your employer is not legally obliged to grant your request for additional leave. You must put a formal request and the employer has to give clear business reasons why the request is not granted.

”Finally, don’t forget that these changes also apply to couples adopting as well.”

  Phillip finishes,

“The Government has made these changes to allow new parents to share childcare duties during the baby’s first year, whereas the previous rules assumed that the mother would want to be the main carer and the father was the breadwinner. Our society is changing and the amendments to these rules give new parents greater flexibility to look after their child without losing all financial benefits.”

Whether you are an employee or employer, if you need further clarification on these changes, then please contact Tallents to speak to one of our experienced lawyers.
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Article first published 26th May 2011