Very soon, UK Dads will for the very first time have a statutory right to paternity leave and pay. Osborne Clarke’s employment law guru Victoria Parry provides a top-line Q&A.
The new right to paternity leave and pay
Is paternity leave currently available?
It will be from 8 December 2002. Paternity leave and pay will be available to fathers whose children are born, or are expected to be born on or after 6 April 2003.
Are there any conditions which a father needs to satisfy in order to qualify for paternity leave?
He must have 26 weeks service by the end of the 15th week immediately before the expected week of child birth.
He must have or expect to have responsibility for the upbringing of the child.
He must be either the biological father of the child, married to the mother or the partner of the child's mother i.e. someone who lives with the mother in an enduring family relationship but who is not a blood relative.
He can take up to two weeks leave, as either one single week or two consecutive weeks.
When does the father have to take his paternity leave?
He must take his leave within 56 days of the child's birth, or if the child is born early, at any time from the actual date of birth until 56 days after the expected week of birth.
Is a father entitled to take any additional unpaid leave?
A father (or indeed a mother) who has completed one years service with his employer is entitled to 13 weeks (unpaid) parental leave to care for his child.
If an employee already has contractual provisions relating to paternity leave and paternity pay will his contract or his statute prevail?
If an employee has a contractual right as well as a statutory right to paternity leave, he may take advantage of whichever is the more favourable.
Is paternity leave available for fathers who are adopting?
Yes – couples adopting a child can choose which of them is to take paternity leave and pay and which is to take adoption leave and pay (which will also be newly available from next April)