The current statutory position is as follows:
•New mothers are entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave (39 weeks of which are paid at the statutory prescribed rate – which is currently £123.06); and
•New fathers are entitled to take two weeks’ statutory paternity leave – also paid at the statutory prescribed rate.
So, how will it work?Under the new proposals, mothers may transfer up to six months of maternity leave or part of that leave to the father, when they return to work. This period of leave can be taken by the father at any time from 20 weeks after the child is born.
If this leave is taken during the mother’s paid maternity period (i.e. the first 39 weeks) and the mother has returned to work, then the father will be entitled to receive statutory paternity pay for the remainder of the 39-week paid leave entitlement, while the reminder of any leave taken by him (up to six months in total) will be unpaid.
The government has announced that it is going to adopt a “light touch” approach to the question of how entitlement to leave and pay will be verified by the employer based on self-certification by the employee.
Although an employer may carry out additional checks to verify the accuracy of information, there is potential for employees to abuse the system by claiming paternity pay when the mother has not actually returned to work.
The new legislation is due to come into force on April 1, 2010 and will affect parents of children due on or after April 3, 2011 to give employers time to prepare.
ReactionsEmployer bodies are concerned about the administrative and financial cost of implementing these proposals.
However, the government anticipates that the take up of these proposals is likely to be low (on account of the pay-drop involved for fathers) and it estimates that only one in sixteen fathers will leave work for a period of full-time childcare.
What the government has not discussed is whether it believes that take up will also be adversely impacted by any perceived stigma or impact on career progression by fathers taking time out. The department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimates that less than one per cent of small businesses will be affected by the change but all employers should be aware that they should be able to reclaim some, if not all, of the money they pay to fathers on paternity leave from the government.
What can I do to prepare?Businesses will need to ensure that relevant policies (such as maternity, paternity and parental leave policies) are updated during 2010 to reflect the changes.
HMRC will also provide guidance and an electronic calculator in addition to a helpline calculation and advice centre, as commercially produced payroll software is not likely to be available until some time during 2011.
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