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Extension of Paternity Leave - New Regulations

31st March 2010

From the 6th April 2010 new regulations regarding Paternity Leave will come into force.

The House of Lords has approved a number of draft regulations relating to Paternity Leave and Paternity Pay, as well as Adoption Leave and Adoption Pay. Paternity Leave has been available in the UK for a number of years, but frankly the uptake has been modest. The reasons for this have long been clear- the very limited period of leave permitted (one or two weeks), and the very limited amount of paternity pay (currently £123.06 per week). The new regulations bring about a significant increase in the paternity leave period.

The new regulations extend the paternity leave entitlement to a maximum of 26 weeks, with a minimum of 2 weeks. As under the old regulations the leave can only be taken in blocks of complete weeks, (so no extra odd days can be added).

A condition is that the leave cannot start until at least 20 weeks AFTER the birth (or placement in relation to an adopted child). The leave must end not later than 12 months after the birth (or adoption placement).

Under the regulations the father will be able to take up to 6 months additional paternity leave provided that the mother of the child has returned to work. The aim is to enable parents to share the period of paid leave between them. To any extent that the additional paternity leave is taken during the mother’s 39 weeks maternity pay period the father can receive paid leave , which will be payable at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay (currently £123.06 per week, rising from the 6TH April 2010 to £124.88 per week). Parents will be required to “self-certify” by providing details of their eligibility to their employer (such as applies under the old paternity leave regulations). The new regulations will give both employers and HMRC the ability to conduct further entitlement checks if necessary. We recommend that employers do take further steps to check the entitlement of the individual employee applying to take paternity leave.

In our experience paternity leave has only been taken by employees that have significant family earnings (so they can afford the break from work on a purely financial basis), or where their earnings have been low, being roughly comparable to the paternity pay level. It is also our experience that many employees find it difficult to take paternity leave, particularly those working in the private sector, due to concerns over the effect it may have on their career prospects, and promotion prospects etc. Further, in difficult economic times there is a risk that an employer may view the taking of paternity leave as a lack of dedication to work and to that employer. We suspect it will take some time before the changes in the regulations are followed by any significant increase in fathers taking paternity leave.

If you need any further advice and help on the issues raised in this article please do not hesitate to contact us.

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