Will you be affected by new paternity laws?

Last updated: May 20th, 2011
Feature by Rebecca Rutt

New paternity laws came into effect 3 April, allowing fathers to take up to 26 weeks paternity leave, but will the changes really mean fathers get to spend more time with their kids?
 
Fathers with a baby due on 3 April or after will be eligible for additional paternity leave, allowing them to share childcare responsibilities in the first year. Men can only take the maximum 26 weeks leave if the mother is
back at work or has stopped claiming maternity pay.
 
It's hoped the UK will follow in the footsteps of countries like Sweden where men and women have equal rights to 16 months' leave per child.
 
However, as women currently earn 56% of men's earnings, in reality reduced income is likely to prevent many fathers from taking advantage of the new legislation.
 
Full-time dad Matthew Poulter, 30, from Leeds, says: "This is good news. We're not living in the 1900s - the law should have been changed before now."
 
However, he admits "it's unlikely much will happen any time soon; mothers will probably continue to be the main carer for the first year".
 
Q: What are the new rules and how have the old ones changed?
 
A: Currently, women are entitled to six weeks' maternity leave on 90% pay, followed by 33 weeks on statutory maternity pay of £124.88 a week.
 
Men were allowed two weeks of paternity leave, also at £124.88 a week.

Parents will now be able to share 46 weeks of parental leave, so if the mother returns to work after 20 weeks, the father can take over the mother's leave on statutory pay for the remaining 26 weeks.
 
Q: How do you qualify?

 
A: To qualify for leave you need to have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks. To be paid while on leave, the time must be taken off to care for the child and the child's mother must have returned to work and
ceased claiming any relevant pay.
 
You must also earn at least the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions.
 
Q: When do you need to tell your employer?

 
A: You must tell your employer in writing at least eight weeks before you want to start your leave. You can find the forms on the Department for Work and Pensions' website (dwp.gov.uk).
 
You'll need to confirm details of the child's birth, show proof you are the father of the child or partner of the mother of the child, and that, second to the mother, you have the main responsibility for the child.
 
Q: Can it refuse your request?
 

A: Yes, but it has to provide a reason why. If your request is refused, you may be able to take annual leave or unpaid parental leave instead. You have
the right to take unpaid leave if you meet the eligibility criteria for leave but not for pay.
 
Throughout your additional paternity leave you continue to be an employee, unless your contract is ended by you or your employer. All leave taken after the end of the statutory paternity pay period is unpaid.
 
Q: What if you're not an employee?
 
A: If you're not an employee but an agency worker, office holder or subcontractor, you normally won't have the right to additional paternity leave. However, you may be eligible for pay if you meet the other qualifying
criteria and have stopped working in order to care for the child.
 
Q: How are the new rules going to affect businesses?

 
A: Some small businesses are concerned about the extra paperwork involved with additional paternity leave and the problems of how it will work.
 
John Walker, national chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, says family leave should be tailored to suit each individual, as a one-size-fits-all approach fails to adapt to those needs.
 
He thinks the new system could prevent small businesses taking on staff because they won't be able to cope with the extra costs and loss of employees for extended time periods.

Your Comments

my baby was due on the 31st of march, but is still not here, now being after the 3rd of april, does the new regulations about the 6 month paterinty leave apply to me???