Paternity Rights - Do You Know Yours?

Maternity rights are something we are all familiar with, however, what about fathers’ rights? Paternity leave isn’t something that is as frequently discussed, or in fact, known about at all. However, if you’ve recently just had a child or adopted, you are well within your rights as a father to take paid leave, just as the mother would. In fact, fathers are entitled to one to two weeks paid leave.

Here are the four qualifying factors for paternity leave:

  1. Been employed by the same employer for at least twenty-six weeks. These twenty-six weeks must fall before the fifteenth week of when the child is expected to be born.
  2. You must be the biological father or married to the mother of the child – this includes same sex partners. (For the latter case, you don’t have to be married or registered as a civil partnership)
  3. You must be responsible for the child (this can be shared with your partner) and intending to take the time off to care for the child or support your partner.
  4. You must give your employer the appropriate amount of notice in order to take leave.

For adoptions, as well as the rules above you must also:

  • Be employed by the same employer for twenty-six weeks by the time you have been matched with your child
  • If wishing to take paternity leave you must not also take adoption leave (if you have a partner, only one of you may take paternity, and the other adoptive leave.).

If you are planning on taking paternity leave, it must be discussed with your employer beforehand. You may either take leave on the day of birth or afterwards, however, if you decide to take your leave after the child is born you must have agreed a date within fifty-six days of the child being born. Leave may not be taken before the birth. This is to ensure that you are actually taking time off to look after your child and not for any other reason.

Adoption leave works the same as paternity, except things must be agreed fifty-six days of the child being matched with you. However, adoption of children you already know, for instance, a friend’s child or a stepchild does not entitle you to paternity leave.

There are also some vital steps you must carry out so to ensure you receive your entitled paternity leave. This includes providing your employer with the following information:

  • Your name
  • The date the child is due
  • The date when your paternity leave is due to start
  • How long your paternity leave is for
  • A declaration that you are entitled to this leave and you are taking it to take care of the child or support your partner

These questions can be filled out using a self-certificate, which are available from HM Revenue and Customs. You must also provide your employer with adequate notice, which must be in writing and given fifteen weeks (or as soon as possible if you do not realise your partner is pregnant) before the baby is due. For adoptions, you must provide this notice at least seven days after the date you are matched with your child.

If the date in which you want to start your paternity leave has to be changed, you must provide your employer with notice of at least twenty-eight days.

The father is entitled to a further twenty-six paid weeks of additional leave (or however much your partner has remaining), but this is only allowed if your partner returns to work. You are also only able to use additional paternity leave after the child is 20 weeks old and before their first year.

If you do take additional leave you must give notice to your employer and prove that your partner has gone back to work.

Additionally, come April 2015 there will be a new law coming into play with regards to paternity and maternity leave.

The Liberal Democrats proposed the idea of ‘shared leave,’ where parents are able to divide their leave off work to take care of their newborn.

However, if you are considering ‘shared leave’ you must give your employers a breakdown of how you and your partner are going to split your time with your child. This breakdown may be changed twice during the year’s leave.

Father’s will also be provided with the right to attend one to two antenatal appointments, this will however, be unpaid leave.

This scheme has been devised to help get women back into the workplace and allow men to take the time they deserve to bond with their child. How much it will change in the next year is unknown, but hopefully this new legislation will help to provide men with an equal opportunity to bond with their child; and women with an easier transition back into the workplace.

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