Some campaigners have long believed that fathers should have increased rights and that the introduction of paternity leave in 2003 was long overdue. From then the Coalition Government, mainly led by the Liberal Democrats, pushed for more equality in the work place in terms of leave.
That came to fruition in 2011 with APL (Additional Parenting Leave), which was a further stage in addressing the balance, but this will be replaced by Shared Parental Leave (SPL) if your little bundle of joy is due on or after April 5, 2015.
So if you’ve just discovered that fatherhood is winging (perhaps via a stork) its way in your direction it’s worth finding out a little more about your entitlements, and what it will mean for the household pay packets – perhaps starting by visiting www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.
When the baby comes along 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 the accrual of holiday. That paternity leave must be taken in week blocks, and is in addition to your holiday allowance – but you must have been with your employer for at least half a year at the time that the due date is 15 weeks away (end of 15th week).
After the two weeks elapse the mother is potentially entitled to another 50 weeks’ maternity leave, but if she plans to return to work early the remainder of her time can be shared.
Under the APL rules a father could take up to 26 weeks’ leave, but under the new SPL rules he and the child’s mother can split the 50 weeks in any way they choose, either separately or both at the same time. For example, the mother could take 40 weeks and the father 10, or they could both take 25 weeks at the same time. In addition the time can be taken in week blocks.
Parents who choose to take APL will each be paid Statutory Shared Parental Pay, at a rate of £138.18 per week or 90% of the parent’s weekly wages for 39 weeks – whichever is lower. You must be earning at least £111 a week pre-tax to receive this, and some companies may pay more for directors/senior roles – check this with your company beforehand.
Some businesses may not like losing members of male staff for several months rather than the one or two weeks guaranteed under previous laws. It may still take some time for the changes to be fully understood, and it may take further time for a full cultural shift towards true equality.
Indeed, this recent exploration of attitudes towards the new rules on Recruitment International used a survey which found that only 20% of employees working at micro businesses take the two week ordinary paternity leave, let alone shared leave.
It also found that some male employees shunned paternity leave because they were concerned about how it would be viewed by others, and most worryingly, 25% said they did not believe they would be supported if the option of Shared Parental Leave was taken.
This should not be the case – you have rights and should use them without fear of being judged or punished.