New rules introduced earlier this year mean if a child is due on, or after April 3, 2011, the father or mother’s partner will be entitled to 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave. But Emma Palmer, from our Employment Team, warned that babies may not stick to expected deadlines.
“The extra time off is on top of the existing two weeks’ paternity leave, which fathers can take within eight weeks of the birth, but babies are rarely on time.
“The new rules will only apply to births on, or after the April date, and the additional leave can only begin once the child is 20 weeks old. But what happens if your baby arrives early? Are you still entitled to take the additional paternity leave or do you lose your right to extra time off?
“The simple answer is if the original due date met the new criteria, your family will still be entitled to the additional leave – this is why the guidelines are based on the expected due date rather than the actual birth date, as it’s so difficult to predict accurately.
“But remember, before you can claim the additional leave, you must have a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. If you don’t, then no matter what day the child is born, you won’t be entitled to the 26 extra weeks. You will also only be allowed to take the extra time if the mother has returned to work – you cannot both be off work at the same time.
“And when it comes to money, you will only receive additional statutory paternity pay during what would have been the mother’s statutory maternity pay period. The rest of the leave will be unpaid, which may well make parents think twice before they go ahead.”