A future Labour government would double the amount of paid paternity leave available to new fathers from two to four weeks, Ed Miliband has announced. The Labour leader has also pledged to increase statutory paternity pay by more than £120 a week to £260 a week.
But what are new fathers currently entitled to? And what plans are already in motion to increase family-friendly rights?
An eligible employee who is the biological father of a child or the mother’s spouse, civil partner or partner is entitled to one or two weeks’ ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP). The current rate of SPP is £138.18 per week.
Fathers and partners of mothers of children due on or after 3 April 2011 but prior to 5 April 2015, are also entitled to additional statutory paternity pay for a further 26 weeks where certain criteria are met i.e. where the mother returns to work and has not taken her full entitlement to statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance. Additional statutory paternity pay will be payable during the period which the mother would have received statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance had she not returned to work.
Additional paternity leave and pay are abolished in relation to parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015. Parents may, instead, qualify for shared parental leave and shared parental pay, a scheme introduced by The Children and Families Act 2014.
What’s going to happen in April 2015?
The new rules will allow women to curtail their maternity leave to enable their partner to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) instead. To be eligible to use the new SPL system, each parent will need to meet qualifying criteria for leave and pay (a minimum level of earnings and length of service will apply).
Eligible parents can share 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ pay, with similar rules for adoptive parents.
For example, a mother and her partner are both eligible for SPL. The mother ends her maternity leave after 12 weeks, leaving 40 weeks (of the total 52 week entitlement) available for SPL. She takes 30 weeks and her partner takes the other 10 weeks.
It will be possible for an employee to give her employer notice of the date on which she intends to end her maternity leave and the untaken balance of her maternity leave would then become available immediately as SPL. Accordingly, the employee’s partner will be able to start taking SPL while the employee is still on maternity leave, meaning that parents will be able to take leave at the same time.
The regulations surrounding the new scheme are highly detailed and employers will need to take care when dealing with employee requests under the SPL scheme.