Extra paternity rights take-up questioned by employers

Employment lawyers have questioned whether fathers will take up the additional paternity leave and pay that they will be entitled to next year.

From April 3 2011, new fathers will be able to access additional paternity leave and pay during the second six months of a child’s life, if the mother wishes to return to work with maternity leave outstanding.

The aim is to enable parents to share a period of paid leave between them, giving families greater flexibility in how they choose to look after their children.

However, legal firms are not convinced about how successful the take-up rate will be.

Bettina Bender, partner and employment specialist at law firm CM Murray LLP, said: “It remains to be seen whether fathers will feel able to take the extended period of leave to look after a new baby without fearing that their career will suffer.”

Andrea Ward, at law firm Hogan & Hartson pointed out there had been concerns from businesses about the effect the changes would have on employers, particularly given the struggling economy.

“These concerns relate to the costs involved, as well as the obvious administrative burden of managing the entitlements between two employers, HMRC and the parents involved.

“It is right to recognise the fact that many women earn more than their partners and face difficult choices when balancing work and family life. The idea of giving families more flexibility to manage precious time off and pay following the birth of a child is a good one, but time will tell whether it will work in practice.”

Katja Hall, CBI director of employment policy, added: “Businesses do their best to support flexible working styles, and this step will give parents more room to adapt childcare to their own situation.

“We recognise the need for greater gender equality when it comes to childcare responsibilities, but the government must get these new rules right, and not create a bureaucratic tangle.”

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