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Paternity leave: what all employers should know

Paternity leave is a hot topic in HR. This guide will help small business owners determine whether their employees are eligible for paternity leave, the statutory allowance and pay they are entitled to, as well as providing information on shared parental leave, extra pay or time off, and antenatal appointments.

paternity leave

The issue of paternity leave is being pushed up the agenda all over the world.  In South Africa, Parliament has recently adopted the Labour Laws Amendment Bill with a view to regulate the right of paternity leave, and in France, a recent appeal to Macron gained almost 58,000 signatures demanding the right to longer paternity leave. The petition includes signatures from some of France’s most high-profile men and calls for the current 11 days awarded to new fathers to be extended to an obligatory 6 weeks.

Similarly, in the UK pressure is mounting on Government and employers to offer better paternity rights for men. In a market-leading move, the insurer Aviva have just offered equal parental leave for all of their male employees. All of their 16,000 employees who meet the parental leave criteria, both men and women, will be entitled to six months of fully paid parental leave. Its previous policy gave four months leave on full pay to women and just two weeks for men.

Chief People Officer at Aviva, Sarah Morris, reportedly said, “it’s time to equalise parental leave and create a level playing field.” So, Breathing Space explains what are the current laws are around paternity leave — what are your responsibilities as an employer? And what can you as an employer do to encourage fathers to take a more active role in parenting?

Paternity leave: eligibility

Entitlement to paternity leave is dependent on a number of factors. Employees may be eligible for paternity leave and pay if they and their partner are:

  • Having a baby
  • Adopting a child
  • Having a baby through a surrogate parent

To qualify for paternity leave, the person must be taking time off to look after their baby and the mother of their child. They must be the father of the child, the adopter (or partner of the adopter), or the intended parent of a surrogacy arrangement.

Your employee should notify you at least 15 weeks before the due date, and when they want their paternity leave to start. To qualify for paternity rights, your employee must have worked for you for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected due date of the child.

Paternity leave: when does it start?

The current statutory allowance for paternity leave is 2 weeks. Your employee can choose to take the leave as two 1-week blocks or 2 consecutive weeks. The amount of time is the same for more than one child (i.e twins). Leave can’t begin until the date of birth, and must finish within 56 days of the birth.

Paternity leave: shared parental leave

Shared parental leave (SPL) allows parents to divide leave between them after having a baby if they meet certain eligibility conditions. Eligible parents can take this leave at the same time or in separate blocks. It also enables employees to take blocks of leave separated by periods of work, rather than An employee is eligible for SPL if they:

  • Share the responsibility for the child with their partner
  • Have been employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due
  • Remain with the same employer while taking SPL

For Government guidelines on eligibility, see their employer Parental Leave guide. For developing or updating  policies on shared parental leave and pay, see the Government’s Technical Guide to Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

Paternity leave: statutory pay

Eligible employees are currently entitled to either £140.98 per week, or 90 per cent of the employee’s earnings (whichever is the lowest). From April 2018 this is due to rise to £145.18 per week. To calculate leave and pay for a particular employee, use the gov.uk Maternity, Adoption and paternity calculator for employers.

Paternity: extra leave or pay

Employees can get more pay and leave if they qualify for shared parental leave and pay. As a business you may also offer more than the statutory leave and pay as part of your employment package. Always make your paternity leave and pay policies clear to staff.

Paternity: antenatal appointments

Fathers, partners and civil partners of a pregnant women are entitled to unpaid time off during working hours to attend 2 ante-natal appointments. There is no legal right to paid time off for ante-natal appointments. However, as an employer you may allow this time off with pay, or allow your employee to take annual leave, or time off in lieu.

Paternity: why offer more?

A recent report in Management Today on Paternity leave lays out a convincing argument as to why companies should offer equal parental leave. Firstly, equality in parental leave is a step forward in addressing gender and sexual orientation inequality in the workplace. It puts everyone on a level playing field. Secondly, while employers may struggle with the idea that they will be paying someone not at work, the gain of attracting and retaining talent should be part of any business’s long-term plan.

The UK is behind when it comes to paternity leave and pay. There are currently 28 other countries that offer better paternity leave and pay schemes than the UK. Aviva have taken a bold step. If other businesses want to develop policies that attract the best employees, they would be wise to follow suit.

More on employees and the law here.

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