Government announces new paternity rights for families

The Government has announced plans to introduce new paternity rights that will give families greater flexibility in how they choose to look after their children.  This new provision will be available during the second six months of the child’s life and would be an option if the mother has maternity leave outstanding. 

The new scheme will be introduced for parents of children due on or after 3 April 2011. Estimated take-up of Additional Paternity Leave is less than 6 per cent and it is estimated that take up will affect 0.7 per cent, or 1 in every 137, of all small businesses.

Under the new scheme:

  • Families will have the choice to transfer up  to six months leave to the father should they want to, which can be taken by the father once the mother has returned to work;
  • This new provision will be available during the second six months of the child’s life, giving parents the option of dividing a period of paid leave entitlement between them
  • Some of the leave may be paid if taken during the mother’s 39 week maternity pay period. This would be paid at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay (currently £123.06);
  • Parents will be required to “self certify” by providing details of their eligibility to their employer.
  • Employer and HMRC will both be able to carry out further checks of entitlement if necessary.

Campaigners welcomed the move but added that other measures would be needed to enable fathers to take advantage. This is because males mostly play the role of the breadwinner and tend to be on the higher incomes. The point was well illustrated by Rob Williams, Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute who commented:

“Whilst it is a step in the right direction, we are concerned that take-up amongst fathers will be low. There is no real incentive package and what is being offered will either be unpaid or paid at a very low rate so few families will be able to afford for fathers to take it up. In addition, there is a risk that some poorer families will miss out altogether, for instance where mothers are not entitled to maternity pay and therefore have no rights to transfer over.”

The plans were announced at the TUC conference earlier last week by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The PM did not take the opportunity to also mention when the extension of maternity pay for 9 months to 12 would come into force.  It was later announced to national press that these previously championed plans to extend statutory maternity pay had been put back due to the current economic climate

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Asif Yusuf



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