New Rights for New Fathers

Imagine it, the excitement of a new born baby followed by long days and sleepless nights.

For many new and expectant parents, especially the dads, concerns about work sometime prevent them enjoying the special early days of fatherhood.

While they may be granted leave, it is often at statutory pay and this can prevent dad’s taking their full entitlements – because they just can’t afford to do so.

Unlike when my kids were born, over 20 years ago, we now talk about work life balance, flexible working and working from home a lot. However, that doesn’t help the dad in the early days of a child’s life (or mother’s partner) when they have a major role to play.

It’s not about working when baby sleeps, its about really being present and supporting mother and baby, as well as dad themself, to get the best start in their new relationship.

As an employer, you have a huge role to play in this and your attitude and actions really count.

Friday, 8th March, there are amendments to paternity leave legislation.

It is important to remember that the legislation will always set out minimum standards. There is NOTHING stopping you as an employer going above and beyond. The key rule if you do decide to offer enhanced benefits is to ensure you are consistent across all your staff and that you have a clearly documented and communicated policy and procedure.

The changes apply to both adoptions and births where the expected date of birth or adoption is on or after 6th April 2024.

So the first question is why does the law come into effected on 8th March? Well, babies don’t always arrive when expected! The new rules apply to any baby born after 8th March, where they were expected after 6th April.

As an employer, this is the first area you can choose to be a little more flexible. If two dads become fathers on 15th March, is it fair that different laws apply?

As the employer, you get to decide, but you must make a decision and communicate it.

There are three key changes to the legislation:

  1. The leave remains at two weeks, but can now be taken non-consecutively i.e. 2 x 1 week periods. They can still be taken as a single period of leave if that works better for the employee.
  2. Previously, employees had to take the paternity leave within the first eight weeks (56 days) of the baby’s birth or adoption. Now, the leave can be taken anytime in the 52 weeks after the birth or adoption.
  3. The employee must notify their employer of their entitlement ie. their partner is expecting, in or before the 15th week before the expected week of birth. In addition, they must provide their employer with 28 days’ notice before each period of leave.

It is important to note that ‘Fathers’ are still entitled to Shared Parental Leave (splitting maternity leave with their partner) and Parental Leave (up to 4 weeks unpaid leave per year, up to 18 weeks per child, up to the child’s 18th birthday) in line with current legislation. The Paternity Leave can be used in conjunction with either of these entitlements.

This all applies to same sex couples as well as to those adopting.

As an employer, you can also make a choice over payment. Do you pay the statutory rate? Or do you pay full salary for the two weeks? You could also pay one week full pay and the second week at the statutory rate.

The statutory rate will increase each year, so it is important that you or your payroll provider knows what your policy is and the correct rate of pay.