By Beth Gale, Solicitor
As Prince William swaps Royal duties for daddy duties following the arrival of his third child we consider the rights of not-so-regal fathers to take paternity leave.
In 2013, after the birth of Prince George, William took two weeks off from his role as a Sea King Helicopter Pilot. He did the same following the birth of Princess Charlotte, at which time he was working as an Air Ambulance Helicopter Pilot. He has now left his role with the Air Ambulance to carry out Royal duties on a full time basis but he is still expected to take a two week break to spend time with his family.
Along with other famous fathers, William is leading by example and demonstrating that both parents must take the opportunity to bond with their child and help their partner following the birth of a baby or adoption.
Fathers, or fathers to be, may be entitled to paternity leave if their partner is having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through surrogacy. This applies equally to same sex couples.
The law enables fathers to take paternity leave and/or shared parental leave with the mother so that families can plan childcare and bonding time with a new arrival based around what works best for them.
Paternity Leave and Pay
A period of up to two consecutive weeks paid paternity leave is available if you
-have, or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing
-are the biological father of the child, or the mother’s husband or partner
-Have been in working for your employer for a continuous period of 26 weeks, ending with the qualifying week (the 15th week before the baby is due, or if you are adopting a child from the UK the end of the week in which you are notified of being matched with the child. If the child is adopted from overseas, the date the child enters the UK.)
-earn at least £116 per week
-give the correct notice to your employer
You should tell your employer that you wish to take paternity leave as soon as possible and let them know when the baby is due. The period of leave cannot start until the birth of the baby and must be taken within 56 days of the birth.
If you lose your baby you are still eligible for paternity leave if your child is still born after 24 weeks or born alive at any time during the pregnancy.
Since April 2018 the rate of Statutory Paternity Pay has been £145.18 per week or 90% of your average weekly earning, whichever is less. Your employer may pay more depending on their individual policies or your contract of employment. AS this is paid the same way as your normal wage, tax and National Insurance will be deducted.
Shared Parental Leave and Pay
Shared parental leave and pay enables you and your partner to decide the best arrangements for childcare during your child’s first year. A mother must take 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave (4 weeks if she works in a factory). She must end her maternity leave if you both decide that you would like to use shared parental leave instead. The shared parental leave can be taken at any time beginning with the date of the birth or placement of the child and ending 52 weeks after this date (if the mother has given the appropriate notice to end her maternity leave).
You and your partner have a ‘pot’ of leave and flexibility to decide whether to take time off together or separately.
To qualify for this the mother, or adopter, must be entitled to some form of maternity leave, must have given the appropriate notice that she wishes to use shared parental leave and must share responsibility for childcare with the named partner. To be eligible for shared parental leave the continuity of employment test and employment and earnings test must be met.
Continuity of employment test – the employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the qualifying week (15th week before the week the child is due or the week they are notified of having been matched with a child if they are adopting), and still employed in the first week that the shared parental leave is due to start.
Employment and earnings test – the employee must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks prior to the due date and have earned more than the maternity threshold of £30 per week in 13 of the 66 weeks leading up to the due date.
If you and your partner both satisfy these tests you will be able to share the parental leave. Even if you do not both satisfy the tests the family can still use shared parental leave, for example if one of you is self-employed they will not meet the test for continuity of employment but could still pass the earnings test allowing the other parent to qualify.
The mother must decide between maternity leave or shared parental leave, she will not be able to take both.
From 2018 the statutory rate for Shared Parental Pay is the lower of £145.18 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings.
Employers may offer enhanced maternity leave rights and pay and they may choose to mirror this for employees who take Shared Parental Leave. It is essential that both men and women are treated equally and paid at the same rate.
If you are a father-to-be you should consider your employment rights and how you and your partner plan to share the responsibility for childcare to ensure that you get the paternity and parental leave you are entitled to.
For more information on Paternity Leave and Shared Parental Leave please get in touch with Samantha Dickinson or Martin Williams.