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Paternity law changes for expectant bosses

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On top of the two weeks paternity leave fathers are already entitled to, qualifying fathers and adoptive fathers now have the right to take between two and 26 weeks additional paternity leave (yes, you heard that right: 26 weeks!) where the mother has returned to work. 

Well, that’s just dandy! This doubles the chances of businesses training someone up at the company’s expense, only to have them disappear, not only potentially leaving the business in the lurch, but also missing out on the return on that training investment. 

However, with a bit of time investment and careful management by companies, measures can be put in place to minimise disruption and the downside generally.

Here are five top tips as to how employers can manage these changes with the minimum of pain:

1. Update policies on maternity and paternity leave to reflect the new entitlement.

2. Think about how best to provide information for staff on Additional Paternity Leave (APL), so you can find it easily if a member of staff is considering it and that the eligibility criteria are made crystal clear.

3. Make sure employees are left in no doubt about any changes to the business’s policy on family leave.

4. Think about whether you want to remove or amend any enhanced contractual entitlement to maternity/paternity allowances – and be sure to consult with employees about any proposed changes as you do this.

5. Don’t forget you will need to consult with fathers away on APL about any proposed changes to terms and conditions and/or redundancies that may affect them in their absence.

If managed sensibly, there need not be any perceptible difference to the business– after all, it’s just about sharing the issue of time off for family duties across the workforce, rather than the issue resting solely with your female employees. 

And think of the benefits to the business in boosted morale and a motivated workforce when managing that always difficult family/work balance gets that much easier for staff.

So although corporate hackles may rise whenever the government PR machine warbles on about how they’ve “listened” to businesses (when, in reality, all many can see is an increase in red table and burdens on the employer), with sensible advice you can manage the process AND even find positives. 

Chris Cook is an employment partner at SA Law, lawyers who specialise in advising small to medium-sized and owner-managed businesses.

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