The Work and Families Act 2006 was due to introduce some changes which would apply to the parents of babies due on or after April 6, 2010.
The Act included provisions to give working fathers and partners of new mothers the right to share paid leave when they have a baby or adopt a child, by extending payment of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), adoption pay and maternity allowance up to 12 months. The aim was for mothers and fathers to share the 12 months of paid leave, with mothers having the option of returning to work after six months’ maternity leave and for fathers to take the remaining six months of paid leave as paternity leave.
The Government has decided to shelve the introduction of these changes and there is no indication of when they may come into force. Fathers remain entitled to only two weeks’ paid paternity leave and SMP remains payable for nine months.
The remainder of this article will focus on existing rights to paternity leave and pay. An employee may be entitled to paid statutory paternity leave of up to two weeks for the birth or adoption of a child. Statutory paternity leave must be taken for the purpose of caring for the child or supporting the mother or the adopter.
To be entitled to statutory paternity leave for a birth, a person must be:
- an employee; and
- the biological father of the child, or be married to, be the civil partner of or be the partner of the child's mother; and
- have been employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth; and
- have, or expect to have, responsibility for the upbringing of the child; and
- have complied with any request from the employer for evidence of entitlement - HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which administers statutory paternity leave and statutory paternity pay has produced a self-certificate of entitlement to statutory paternity leave and pay, which an employee can use. An employee does not have to use this self-certificate, but should provide the same information to their employer; and
- have given the employer the required notice – this notice must be given to the employer by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or, if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as possible. The notice must specify the expected week of the child’s birth, how long the employee wishes to take as paternity leave and the date on which the employee wishes leave to begin.
Statutory paternity leave may be taken as a block of leave lasting either one or two consecutive weeks. It cannot start before the baby was born and must begin no later than eight weeks after the baby was born or, if the baby was born early, eight weeks after the Sunday of the week when the baby was due.
During statutory paternity leave, most employees will be entitled to statutory paternity pay (SPP). This will be paid for a block of one or two consecutive weeks depending on whether the employee chooses to take one or two weeks' paternity leave. SPP is paid at the rate of whichever is the lower of £123.06 or 90% of normal weekly earnings.
Further information on paternity leave and pay is available from your local CAB or from the Department for Employment and Learning by telephoning 028 9025 7580. Guidance on paternity leave and pay can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk if you are an employee or worker and www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk if you are an employer.
Siobhan Harding is an Information and Policy Officer with Citizens Advice.