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New Paternity Laws – A Summary

19th April 2011
By amnorge in Law
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New paternity laws came into action this April, enabling Father’s to take more time off work after to the birth of their children. Prior to this change the paternity leave that employers had to give their employees was only two weeks; a maximum of twenty-six weeks can now be taken.

Mother’s and Father’s will now be able to split the parental time they take off after their children are born. Women are entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks and men to a maximum of 28 weeks (two weeks plus the additional twenty-six weeks), but a Mother and Father will not both be able to take the maximum. It is up to each family; they may decide the time should mostly go to the Mother, they may decide the time should mostly go to the Father, or they may split it more evenly. It really is up to them.

Under the new rules, the paternity leave does not have to be in one go but must be taken in weekly blocks. Each period must be an exact number of weeks (anywhere between one and twenty-six) but cannot be three days, for example.

For Father’s to take paternity leave they must have been employed with their current employer for at least the last six months by the end of the fifteenth week before the expected week of the birth of their child. Apart from the Mother, he must be the main person responsible for the child’s upbringing. Any paternity leave needs to be taken within a year of the birth.

There are several positives for families due to this change, some of which are outlined below:

Father’s will be able to spend more time with their new born children.

In some families the Mother earns more than the Father. In these cases it may make more sense for the Mother to return to work and the Father to take longer parental leave. The alternative before may have been child care, which is expensive and may not be ideal so soon.

More shared parenting will be possible in the early weeks of a child’s life. This is both a positive for the parents and the child.

Families can be more flexible. Previously it was not possible to be flexible to the needs of each individual family. It is no longer always the case that men work the most or earn the most, so it is not always suitable for women to have longer off. Now parents can choose which parent has parental time off to suite their family circumstances.

Something that has been in the news around this subject is the reaction of businesses, with some pointing out the extra burden of employees who will not be at work for a period of time. This has especially been a concern for small as larger corporation may be better placed to cope with the changes. In reality, though, this shouldn’t be an issue. As families must split the parental leave it is not actually extra leave. Male employees may have more time off, but this might be helped by female employees having less time off. Although it will affect different businesses in different ways, in theory it should balance itself out.

Andrew Marshall (c)

Penningtons are Employment Solicitors Basingstoke.

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