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‘No Way To Predict’ Paternity Leave Rules Impact

Expert Comments On New Regulations


An employment law expert at Irwin Mitchell has raised doubts over the potential impact that new paternity leave rules allowing men more time off work to spend with their newborn or adopted children will have on many firms.

Introduced from the start of this week, the Government’s new regulations allow mothers to transfer up to 26 weeks of their maternity or adoption leave to a husband, civil partner or partner who is eligible and able to take paternity leave.

The rules will only take effect when the wife or partner of an employee looking to take up the paternity leave option returns to work with some of the statutory maternity or adoption leave untaken.

Glenn Hayes, a Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Employment team, said the new changes undoubtedly increase options for parents looking to spend time with their children, but suggested that it is difficult to gauge the impact that the rules will have going forward at this early stage.

He explained: “It will be interesting to see how many fathers choose to take up these new options. In my view, while the changes on the face of it have given men a range of new rights it is likely that take-up, at least at the initial stages, will be relatively low as it relies upon the mother returning to work first of all.

“From a business point of view however, these regulations add to the increasing administrative burden seen by many firms during these tough times, and  are undoubtedly regulations that need to be considered carefully in relation to ever-changing workplace policies.

“Whilst some individuals may not be interesting in taking advantage of the regulations due to the amount of pay received whist on such leave, others may be entitled to increased payments making the leave a more attractive option.  For instance, employers who enhance maternity pay over certain periods for mothers could theoretically open themselves up to discrimination claims if they fail to offer the same to men or partners who take up the option of this extended leave.”

Glenn added that another issue is how firms deal with ensuring that their workers are adhering to the regulations.

“If mothers and their partners are employed at the same place, it is easy for firms to recognise when the mother is at work whilst the other is at home,” he outlined.

“However, it is not straightforward when couples work in different places. For example, what does a manager do if he spots an employee walking in town with his wife and baby? This could undoubtedly raise suspicions over the fact that one of them is obviously not at work.

“Such situations would undoubtedly mean companies have to ask the right questions in order to avoid conflict in the workplace.

“This issue also links to a need for more clarification over whether mothers have to physically return to work for the regulations to be taken into account. Theoretically, they could return to work but take immediate holiday in order to spend time with their partner and child.”

Glenn concluded: “Ultimately, we will only be able to understand how the regulations will work once they’ve been in practice for a period of time. Then it is likely to become clear just how many fathers want to make use of the entitlement and what policies firms need to embrace the changes with a minimum of fuss.”