Times are changing. The stereotypical image of the mother left holding the screaming baby whilst the father “brings home the bacon” is being increasingly challenged. With fathers choosing/needing to get more and more involved in the initial stages of their child’s development, and mothers choosing/needing to return to work at an earlier stage, Government is being forced to look at various proposals in relation to parental leave which aim to shatter the perception that it is mainly a woman’s role to stay at home and look after the child. It is hoped that the measures may help to ensure that more employers both attract and retain women and prevent them from dropping out of work once they start a family.
So, what are fathers and adoptive fathers currently entitled to when it comes to caring for their brood and how are these rights set to change in the future?
What is Additional Paternity Leave (“APL”)?
APL has been around since April 2011 and enhances the entitlement to two weeks “ordinary” paternity leave. It gives an eligible employee the statutory right to take between 2 and 26 weeks leave to look after a child or adopted child, but not all of this is paid leave. Additional statutory paternity pay (“ASPP”) is payable only during the period of the 39 week Maternity Allowance, Statutory Maternity or Statutory Adoption Pay period.
A parent can take APL any time between 20 weeks after the child is born and its first birthday. An adoptive parent can take APL anytime between 20 weeks and 52 weeks after the child starts living with the adopter.
Who qualifies for APL?
There are a number of hurdles for qualification. Is the employee the child’s biological father or the spouse or partner of the child’s mother? Does the employee have, or are they expect to have, the main responsibility (apart from the child’s mother) for bringing up the child? If so, in birth cases, the employee must:
- have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks ending with the week immediately before the 14th week before the child’s expected week of birth (the “relevant week”); and
- have remained in continuous employment with that same employer until the week before the first week of their APL.
In the case of adoption, the employee must:
- be the spouse or partner of the person who has elected to take adoption leave, having been matched for adoption;
- have been matched for adoption;
- have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks ending with the relevant week, which would be the week, beginning with Sunday, in which they are notified of having been matched with the child; and
- remain in continuous employment with that same employer until the week before the first week of their APL.
Further, for an employee to be entitled to take APL the child’s mother or adopter must have started working again and any relevant payment must have stopped.
Employers must be notified in writing at least eight weeks before the start of the leave. As part of the notification process, the employee must submit the following to the employer:
- A “leave notification”;
- An “employee declaration”; and
- A “mother declaration/adopter declaration”.
Once the employee has notified the employer of their intention to take APL, the employer must confirm the start and finish dates within 28 days.
How does it work in practice?
Take the situation where a mother starts her maternity leave before the expected week of childbirth (“EWC”), the baby is born in the EWC and the mother then returns to work when she has two weeks of her statutory maternity pay (”SMP”) period remaining. In this case, the father can use the maximum 26 available weeks of APL (as long as these are taken before the child’s first birthday, or, in the case of adoption, 52 weeks after the child starts living with the adopter).
However, ASPP will only be payable for the first two weeks of the 26 week APL period, because that will be the balance of the mother’s or adoptive parent’s unused statutory pay period.
If the mother or adopter returns to work any time after the 38th week, the father can still take APL (up to the child’s first birthday) but he will not be entitled to ASPP.
How much ASPP will the employee receive?
The current statutory limit for ASPP is £135.45 per week (this will increase on 7 April 2013 to £136.78) or 90 per cent of the employee’s average weekly earning, whichever is less. This is the same rate as for ordinary statutory paternity pay.
The government has proposed various new rights in relation to flexible parenting in the Children and Families Bill. These are set to come into force in 2015.
Under the new proposed system, parents will be able to choose how they care for their child during its first year. Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave should they wish to take it, however after the initial two week recovery period mothers will have the choice of ending their maternity leave, so that the remaining leave can then be shared out between both working parents.
It is intended that employees on shared leave will benefit from similar protection to that given to women on statutory maternity leave. For example, they will remain entitled to the benefit of all contractual terms, apart from pay, and all contractual benefits, such as accrual of holiday will continue.