The impending arrival of a child is one of the most exciting times of your life, and one where the world seems to fly by in a haze. But it can also be one of the most financially stressful and confusing times, when mum and dad talk about when one or both should return to work – and the entitlements are changing next year.
Here are ten basic facts about paternity leave and the upcoming overhaul, to find out more click here.
To qualify for ordinary paternity leave you must have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the start of the week when the baby is due, or the end of the week when you are informed you’ve been matched with a child for adoption.
Before the baby arrives you may take unpaid leave to accompany a pregnant woman to two antenatal appointments providing you are the father or long term partner of the mother.
The mother is still entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave providing she is an employee. Of the 52, 39 will be paid. She must take at least two weeks maternity leave following the birth by law.
The father is still entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave. While on paternity leave your basic employee rights remain, such as the possibility of pay rises and a build-up of holiday. Paternity leave must be taken in week blocks.
In 2011 Additional Parental Leave (APL) was introduced, which entitles the parents to share the mother’s maternity leave of a year, although the dad has to wait for 20 weeks after the birth to take leave, and only has a maximum of 26 weeks, in a single block.
The laws will change from December 1 if your child is due (or if you adopt a child) on or after April 5, 2015, with the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL). Providing various criteria are met by both parents, which you can check on the Gov.UK website, the two parents will be able to share time off work.
So for example, if a mother decides to end her maternity leave after 15 weeks it would leave 37 weeks available for SPL. Those 37 weeks could be split between both parents, or the unused allowance could go completely to the father (or same-sex parent).
As the name suggests the SPL leave is shared between the two, but with much more flexibility than APL. With SPL, providing warning is given by the mother as to the date when she will give up maternity leave (and therefore start the ‘shared period’), and providing the father has given his employers at least eight weeks’ notice of that date, then there is much more choice and opportunity for both parents to take the shared leave they want.
They can share the remaining period, and even stop and start it rather than taking leave all in one go for either parent – it could be taken in three blocks, both at the same time or separately. An employer can’t turn down a period of leave if eligible, but can turn down breaking the block into shorter periods.
If SPL is taken parents will each be paid the minimum Statutory Shared Parental Pay, at a rate of £138.18 per week or 90% of the parent’s weekly wages – whichever is lower. Of course your company may offer more – but it might not.
Widespread evidence such as that compiled by the Institute of Leadership and Management suggests that there is still a great deal of work to do, with a reverse gender gap in pay and fewer than 10% of men taking more than two weeks of leave.
But at least the option is there to give fathers a more equal spell of time with their child during the proudest time of their lives.
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