Additional Paternity Leave – What is it and how does it apply?

After some uncertainty the Government has announced that it will uphold the Additional Paternity Leave (APL) regulations that came into force on 6 April 2010 – just three weeks before the Labour government was dissolved; Workingmums.co.uk talked to Tracey Guest, head of employment and a partner at Slater Heelis about how the regulations apply.

After some uncertainty the Government has announced that it will uphold the Additional Paternity Leave (APL) regulations that came into force on 6 April 2010 – just three weeks before the Labour government was dissolved; Workingmums.co.uk talked to Tracey Guest, head of employment and a partner at Slater Heelis about how the regulations apply.
The new Government has stated that it will uphold the regulations in their entirety, and so employers are working on the assumption that the regulations will remain in place as they currently stand.
Current legislation provides for fathers to receive two weeks paternity leave. This is paid at a rate of £124.88 per week (or 90% of weekly earnings if that is less). The new regulations will increase the length of paternity leave to 26 weeks, but only a proportion of this will be paid at the statutory rate. It is important to note that APL cannot be taken whilst the mother is on maternity leave, and it cannot be taken until the baby is at least 20 weeks old.
The regulations will apply to fathers of children due on or after 3 April 2011 (or matched for adoption on or after that date).
Case study:
Swapping leave between mum and dad can work and Tracey outlines the following example:
Jane gives birth to her baby on 3 April 2011. As an eligible employee, she can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave; 39 weeks of this will be paid at the statutory rate of £124.88 per week. However, she decides that she wants to return to work after 20 weeks. After 20 weeks, her husband David can take APL for the next 26 weeks. 19 weeks of this will be paid at the statutory rate because this is the remaining period for which Jane could have claimed maternity pay.
Effectively, the regulations give mothers the right to transfer a proportion of their paid leave to their partner.
Eligibility:
In order to qualify for APL, the father must be eligible. Tracey says that this means that the following broad conditions must be satisfied:
  • the father must have been continuously employed for 26 weeks ending with the fifteenth week before the baby is due
  • the father must be taking time off to care for the child
  • the father must fulfil notice requirements of intention to take APL
  • the mother has returned to work and ceased claiming any maternity pay
“Other conditions surrounding National Insurance contributions are also relevant.
“It is important to note that the APL regulations do not only apply to biological fathers. Like basic paternity rights, the entitlement to leave is based upon a relationship with the child’s mother. As such, unmarried partners and same-sex civil partners can qualify for APL provided that they expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing. APL also applies to families who are adopting a child,” says Tracey.
With the new regulations nearing, Tracey advices employers to start getting ready and suggests the following checklist:
  • Update existing paternity leave policies;
  • Include references to maternity, paternity and adoption rights in equality and diversity polices;
  • Make sure all policies are inclusive and coherent. It is worth seeking advice from a solicitor regarding this point;
  • Make sure that line managers understand their responsibilities in delivering the relevant policies;
  • Consider whether more generous parental leave provisions could be offered to employees over and above the statutory minimums; and
  • Consider how Keeping In Touch days will be facilitated.
“The Government introduced the APL Regulations as a way of recognising that the family unit is changing in today’s modern society. The traditional idea of men going to work whilst women look after the children is no longer applicable to many families, not least because of the number of women who actually earn more than their partners. However, money is not the only factor to be considered. The regulations promote the idea that fathers should have the right to spend quality time with their children during the first year. This demonstrates a shift in the attitude of society – it is now considered the norm for men to have a much more active role in the upbringing of their children,” comments Tracey.
What does this mean for the workplace as a whole?
Potentially the APL regulations could trigger a culture shift which sees men choosing to stay at home to care of baby as more accepted. It could also see women advance further in their careers.
On a more practical level, says Tracey: “it means that employers will have to make provisions for the possibility that more of their male staff will be absent from the workplace for longer periods. Although many employers may feel that this would have a detrimental impact upon their organisations, research has shown that flexible attitudes towards family life are more likely to result in the retention of talented staff – as well as an increase in productivity, a reduction in staff-turnover, and a generally more positive working environment.”
Conversely, it might be the case that the impact upon the workplace is actually very limited. Tracey points out that statutory paternity pay works out at much less than the minimum wage (based upon a 40 hour week), so it could be that very few fathers decide to take advantage of the new right. “Although the role of the father is being recognised, the financial provisions are not reflective in terms of promoting flexible co-parenting. Many would favour a system by which a percentage of the father’s actual pay is given during paternity leave. This is the case in Norway and Germany where fathers on paternity leave are given 60-80% of their income during their absence from work. This means that a greater proportion of fathers decide to take paternity leave than they do in the UK,” says Tracey. In the UK, it is actually very common for fathers to take paid annual leave, in place of paternity leave on statutory pay. This leaves them with fewer holidays to take throughout the year, for example during school holidays when quality family time is desired.
In conclusion, Tracey says that, “Although the Government is recognising the shift in society’s views of parenting, the majority of families may not be in a position to take advantage of the new provisions. As such, employers can expect that further changes will be called for and that more flexibility will be required in the future for the promotion of a healthier work-life balance.




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