Baby blues for company bosses
Families expecting a baby from next spring onwards can expect an ‘extra’ along with their bundle of joy in the form of a new set of statutory rights for fathers. Businesses employing would-be dads need to be aware of the new rights since they start to bite in a little over six months.
The new rules affect the parents of children due on or after 3 April 2011 and the changes are fairly groundbreaking in relation to family provisions and employment law. The father of a child due after the key date will be able to receive up to six months’ paternity leave ‘transferred’ from his partner, who would then not take additional maternity leave.
The current basic provision of two weeks’ paternity leave taken around the birth/adoption of a child, will be renamed ‘ordinary paternity leave/pay’ but otherwise remains the same. In addition, the father will have the right to additional paternity leave/pay as long as he meets various requirements in respect of his partner’s qualification for statutory maternity pay and his own employment and service.
Additional paternity leave
Fathers will be able to take up to 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave. This must be taken in a continuous block, starting no earlier than 20 weeks after the birth and ending no later than the child’s first birthday. The mother must have already returned to work before the father’s leave can begin. He may be paid for his additional paternity leave if it is taken during his partner’s 39-week statutory maternity pay period. Paternity pay will be paid at the same rate as statutory maternity pay.
This is the kind of change that is likely to take a great many businesses by surprise. It may prove particularly worrying for employers because the parents in question will be able to ‘self-certify’ by providing details of their eligibility to their respective employers themselves.
Employers will have no power to force an employee to provide the information nor to take action if they fail to provide it. Nor will there be any obligation on the mother’s employer to provide any information about her to the father’s employer.
The scheme appears to rely heavily on common sense and honesty. Not surprisingly, many businesses are concerned about how it will work in practice, the risk of employees abusing it and the cost.
If you need clear and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.