Jobs are preserved during extended paternity leave

Having been part of the taskforce that helped the DTI formulate the Work and Families Act, there are a couple of points in your legal opinion (Personnel Today, 22 May) I felt needed clarification.

Unless fathers qualify for paid ordinary leave, they cannot receive paid additional leave. This is a new concept, as up until now both statutory maternity pay (SMP) and ordinary paternity leave have had a state safety net for low earners, allowing unpaid leave to be taken, backed up by a state benefit (maternity allowance for mums and income support for dads).

The new consultation makes it clear that it will not be possible to qualify for unpaid additional leave and, therefore, no state support is envisaged.

While I agree that higher-paid staff may fear ‘career death’ by taking additional paternity leave, this is not aimed at them, but rather at families where the wife is the main breadwinner and where it would make economic sense to split the leave. Dads should be reassured if they do take the leave that, unlike the second 26 weeks of statutory maternity leave, the father’s right to contractual benefits throughout his additional leave must be preserved.

He must be given his old job back – not the ‘suitable and appropriate’ alternative for women returning after more than 26 weeks’ leave.

Kate Upcraft, writer and lecturer, ISIS Support Services

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