Thursday, 27 November 2014

Fathers need help when it comes to paternity leave

New fathers are struggling to afford time off work to be with their babies because the statutory pay for paternity leave is so low, it is claimed.

Shropshire law firm Martin-Kaye Solicitors says one in three fathers are being forced to use their annual leave, instead of relying on paternity pay, to afford time off with their growing family.

John Mehtam, from the firm's employment team in Telford, said: “The statutory weekly rate of ordinary paternity pay currently stands at just over £138, before tax. This is just half the weekly salary for someone who is on the national minimum wage.

“It explains why, according to a survey for Mumsnet, more than one in six fathers take less than a week off work following the birth of their child. Of these, two thirds said it was because of financial issues, while a quarter were unable to secure time off from their employer.”

John said: “If you have been with your employer long enough to qualify for paternity pay, you must tell them that you intend to go on paternity leave at least 15 weeks before your baby's expected due date – otherwise, they are within their rights to turn you down. And if you change your mind about when you want to take paternity leave, the law says this can be done – but you need to give your employer 28 days' notice of the changed date.”

Several major companies, including PWC and Deloitte, have drawn up enhanced paternity packages in recent months. But they are in the minority, with only one in six companies currently topping up the statutory minimum paternity payment.

So what can you do if your employer doesn’t think they need to sanction paternity leave, or you feel they’re not paying the right amount?

John said: “Firstly, talk to your employer and make sure you get a written explanation. If that doesn’t work, you may have to make a formal complaint, or speak to your trade union or employees’ representative, if you have one. And you can also call HM Revenue & Customs employee's enquiry line for advice. The number is 0845 302 1479.

“In an ideal world, though, it is best for employers to offer flexible working arrangements which can be adapted to suit both parties, because a happy workforce is always a more productive workforce.”