Q: I run a small manufacturing workshop and employ seven male staff. Recently one of my employees announced that he will become a new father in 6 months’ time. I overheard him say he wants to take a few months off to bond with his child but I thought men only got a couple of weeks? What do I need to know?
A: New fathers are entitled to up to 2 weeks’ paternity leave at a statutory rate of £140.98 or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. Since 2015 however, working parents can benefit from Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay.
To qualify for Shared Parental Leave your employee must have been continuously employed by you for at least 26 weeks up to the end of the qualifying 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, and must still be employed by you in the week before Shared Parental Leave is due to start. They must also have a partner who has been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks (not necessarily continuously) in the 66 week period leading up to the expected week of childbirth, and who must have earned at least £30.00 a week on average in 13 of those weeks.
Shared Parental Leave can generally be taken at any time in the 12 months following the birth and is paid largely in the same way as Statutory Maternity Pay. So if your employee does use the SPL system he can increase his paid parental leave to try to bond with his child. He must give you at least 8 weeks’ written notice of his leave dates. Failure to comply with the requirements for Shared Parental Leave could expose you to an Employment Tribunal claim, so if you are in any doubt about this you should liaise with ACAS and a qualified local solicitor.
(Published August 2017)