PARENTAL LEAVE (NOVEMBER 2001)

I will become a father in two months time and am not sure how much time, if any, I am entitled to take off work immediately after the birth.

Firstly, I would advise you to approach your Department Manager or the HR Manager. Your employer may give time off, as a perk to the employees, immediately following a birth. This time off may be paid at your usual daily rate or unpaid.

Secondly , you could use any accrued holiday entitlement subject to the usual authorisation and booking rules which would need to be more flexible. This option would be paid time off at your usual daily rate.

Third option , Parental Leave ( PL ), may be of interest to in your current circumstances. You will be entitled to this relatively new right to PL if you have completed one years service or more with your current employer. It allows both parents (named on the birth certificate) with children born or adopted on or after 15 December 1994 to take time off work to care for that child. PL extends to a maximum of 13 weeks for each child and these rights last until the child’s fifth birthday or until five years have elapsed following placement in the case of adoption or until the child’s 18th birthday, whichever is sooner. Parents of disabled children are able to use their leave up until the child’s 18th birthday. The PL provision equally applies to mothers, fathers and to a person who has obtained formal parental responsibility for a child under the Children Act on or after 15th December 1994. The relevant date i.e. of 15th December 1994 was, until 10th January 2002, set as 15th December 1999. Parents can take the back leave any time from that date to 31st March 2005 or for adoptive parents up to the child’s 18th birthday. You will be are able to start taking PL when the child is born or as soon as you have completed one years service, whichever is later. PL taken under this provision is unfortunately unpaid.

Fourth option from 2003  -  working fathers 2003 will have the right to two weeks paternity leave to be paid at the same rate as statutory maternity pay( SMP). SMP has currently been increased to £75 per week and will be increased again to £100 per week from April 2003. I t is very important to point out that you will remain employed while on PL with the same terms and conditions applying, such as contractual notice periods and consultation on redundancy. At the end of the PL you are guaranteed the right to return to the same job as before, or if that is not practicable, a similar job which has the same or better status, terms and conditions. If the period taken is for 4 weeks or less then you would be entitled to go back to the same job. You should not be dismissed or victimised because you have taken PL. If you are or are prevented from taking PL then you could make a complaint to the Employment Tribunal. I would use this action as the very last resort as it will inevitably taint the relationship with your employer. Your employer may request that the PL is postponed for up to 6 months if the business could not cope with your absence. However, importantly for you the leave cannot be postponed as the notice given is to start immediately after the time a child is born. If you wanted to take PL to start immediately after the birth you will need to give 21 days notice before the beginning if the expected week of the child’s birth or as much notice as is reasonably practicable. The Regulations state that PL should be taken in blocks or multiples of one week after giving a minimum of 21 days notice and up to a maximum of 4 weeks in any one year. You may find that your employer has an agreement set up which is more generous and flexible than the statutory provision, e.g. you may be able to take days off at a time not only a minimum of a complete week. Any agreement made between employer and employee can improve on the statutory provision but cannot in any circumstances take any rights away. Another set of Regulations, that may become more relevant as your child grows up, set out provisions for Time Off for Dependants. This relates to time off to deal with emergencies involving someone who depends on you for care, e.g. husband , wife, parent, child, someone living with you as part of your family or relies solely upon you for help.

Abigail H. Daykin, Solicitor

This article is produced for general information purposes only and full legal advice should be obtained before acting or not acting on the information it contains. If this article has raised issues or questions relating to CAgs or any other employment law matter that you would like to discuss please contact me at Abigail Daykin & Co 01252 719155 or e-mail me on:  advice@abigaildaykin.co.uk .

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Abigail Daykin & Co: employment solicitors on parental rights.