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Employment Law Advice for Employers: Paternity Law Changes April 2011

Paternity Laws are about to change. Our Glasgow Law Practice employment law solicitors advise Business Start Ups, small businesses and medium sized businesses on all aspects of employers obligations to their employees. We provide practical advice on employment law to allow you to concentrate on running your business.

Changes mean improved rights for fathers, but could also bring benefits for employers of new mothers.

BUSINESS clients of the Glasgow Law Practice have been seeking our guidance on the changes to the law on paternity which are being introduced this week.
Instead of new rights being granted to new mothers, this time it is new fathers who are being given the opportunity to take leave of up to six months.
In line with the laws on maternity, the employer of the father will face strict laws on how to manage the leave, including what is to happen to the father’s role while he is off, including in a redundancy situation.
Until now, mothers have been entitled to 39 weeks’ paid maternity leave and 13 weeks’ unpaid maternity leave, while fathers were only entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave at the statutory rate of pay.
For any child born after April 3rd 2011, however, couples will have the right to demand a more flexible parental leave scheme, giving fathers the option to use their partners’ unused maternity leave.
The new rules mean that a partner may take up to an additional 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave, on top of their current two-week entitlement. But he will only be able to do so if the mother returns to work during her maternity leave entitlement.
The new system means that couples will no longer have to decide if the mother takes or doesn’t take maternity leave – instead, she can “transfer” this to the father, who can use up the remainder of the entitlement. The amount of statutory maternity pay can also be “transferred”, which has implications for employers of both parents.
The employee only has to give at least 21 days’ notice of the leave, and the Glasgow Law Practice has been giving specialist advice to our employer clients regarding their responsibilities in advance of the first request landing on their desks.
Given limited time employers of new fathers could have to react to this, we have also been giving advice on how this must NOT be dealt with, to reduce the risk of facing a claim at the Employment Tribunal.
The Government – though more so the Lib-Dems – see the change as “social engineering”, putting male employers in the same position as female employees, and therefore deterring unscrupulous employers from discriminating against women because of their maternity rights.

 

While this could be a long-term benefit, in the short-term many small businesses who have contacted the Glasgow Law Practice have expressed their concern at losing key members of their workforce during a downturn, and the financial implications of the improved paternity rights.
Our advice has been clear: this is something which requires careful management, and business pressure will not be a realistic defence should things go wrong.
*The standard rate of statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay will all increase on April 3rd from £124.88 per week to £128.73 per week.

If you require legal advice on such matters contact our employment law solicitors on {{CONTACT_NUMBER_CONTENT}} .