The new rights to paternity leave have already begun, for some – they apply to parents of babies due on or after 3 April 2011, regardless of when the baby is born. The extension of paternity leave to a maximum of 6 months has attracted a lot of media coverage, but it is expected that take up will be relatively small.
The position for most new fathers or secondary carers is that they will be entitled to the usual 2 weeks’ statutory paternity leave, provided that they have 26 weeks’ service at the 15th week before the due date and have complied with the notification requirements. Statutory paternity leave is paid at the statutory rate.
However, if the baby is due (or matched for adoption) on or after 3 April 2011, then they will be able to take up to 26 weeks’ paternity leave. The catch is that they can only do this if the mother has returned to work. However, if the mother has exhausted her statutory maternity pay, then only 2 weeks of statutory paternity pay will be payable.
It is worth noting however that additional paternity leave can create some issues similar to maternity leave, which might catch some employers unawares. For example, if an employer offers an enhanced maternity package, it may be discriminatory if they do not offer the equivalent package to someone taking additional paternity leave.
Another area to watch out for is the ‘trump card’. We have previously covered the fact that in a redundancy situation, a woman on maternity leave has an automatic right to ‘jump the queue’ for a suitable alternative position, regardless of whether she is the best candidate for the role. This right also applies to people on paternity leave. Previously, it has not been an issue as paternity leave has only been a maximum of two weeks, so redundancy situations are not normally affected. However, if additional paternity leave is taken, it increases the chance of this happening. If redundancies are looming, a very cunning employee might even be able to time their paternity leave to avoid being selected.
Also, the situation could potentially arise where a man on additional paternity leave and a woman on maternity leave both have the right to jump the queue – but if there is only one job, an employer would be left having to decide who trumps who! Thankfully, this situation is likely to be extremely rare.
Do you need advice on family-friendly rights? If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected])