New paternity and flexible working rights

With the increasing trend towards promoting a work/life balance and the Government keen to promote the rights of families, there are a number of changes in employment law that have come into force from 6 April.

New paternity regulations will apply to fathers of babies born on or after this date.

Previously, fathers were entitled to take up to 13 weeks unpaid leave between the time a child is born and up to his fifth birthday, with no more than four weeks of this leave taken in one year, and any leave had to be agreed first with employers. New fathers are now allowed up to two weeks paid paternity leave, in addition to the existing regulations on parental rights. Paternity leave also applies to fathers of adopted children.

“Beforehand, fathers didn’t get a lot. With the changes in law, they can take either one or two weeks of paid leave, and in most cases fathers can expect to receive up to £100 a week, which is statutory pay,” says Ray Levy, partner at solicitor Freedman Green.

Conditions apply

Ensure you check that you qualify for paternity leave, as certain conditions apply.

– You must have been working for your current employer for 26 weeks ending with the fifteenth week before the expected week of childbirth (this is known as the qualifying week)

– You have to notify your employer of your intention to take paternity leave within the 15 weeks before the baby is due

– The leave must be taken within 56 days of the birth of the child

“These new paternity rights apply to companies of any size. In addition, there are new rights for mothers too and flexible working, which applies to mothers or fathers of young or disabled children. Employers can claim back maternity leave in a similar way to how they claim statutory maternity pay,” advises Kirsty Scott, general manager at Jobsworth, a service which provides online employment contracts and policies.

Flexible working

The Government has introduced flexible working in response to the recognition that family commitments, in particular in the case of people with young children, may make it hard for people to work within a traditional 9-5 environment.

According to Freedman Green, a request for flexible working should be made only for the purpose of care for a child or children, such as if you want to spend more time with them, or to enable you to pick your child up from school.

Previously, employees could ask employers for flexible hours, but whether these were granted or not was entirely up to the employers’ discretion. This still applies, but the changes that have been introduced make the process much more structured, as the employer will now have to record the request and answer in writing.

“We don’t know how effective flexible working will be as there are many reasons an employer can say no, such as the burden of added cost and the negative impact on the quality of performance. Time will tell how this will work in practice,” comments Jobsworth’s Scott.

Ensure you are eligible

There are also certain criteria to fulfil before you are eligible for flexible working

– you must be an employee

– you must have a child under 6 years old (or in the case of disabled chidren, under 18)

– you must have worked for at least 26 weeks prior to making the application

– you must not have made a similar request within 12 months.

“Employers must consider the request seriously, but can refuse it on various grounds, and there are lots of procedures to follow when making requests and considering them,” adds Scott.

Related Topics

Paternity leave