Father’s Parental Rights at Work: Navigating Paternity Leave

Published June 14 2019

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Father enjoying fair parental leave, and spending time with his son.

For employers, the effective management of family leave is of utmost importance, not only to ensure compliance with the law but also to foster and maintain positive employee relations. One significant facet of this management involves fathers’ parental rights in the workplace. A thorough comprehension of these rights is essential for businesses. 

In this comprehensive article, we aim to go beyond the surface and delve into the intricacies of fathers’ parental rights at work. By providing detailed and concise answers to frequently asked questions, we will equip employers with the knowledge needed to navigate this aspect of employee rights effectively.

What is Paternity Leave?

Paternity leave is a common legal right across the world that allows fathers (or partners) to take time off work to care for a child, support the child’s mother, or handle post-birth responsibilities. Paternity leave empowers fathers and partners to take time off work to care for and bond with their new baby, similarly to maternity leave, however at most companies, consists of a shorter period.

Having a baby is a significant life event for any parent and taking time off work is essential for both parents during this time. Research suggests that those fathers who take advantage of paternity leave are more likely to take a bigger role in parenting and will divide household chores with their partners in the long term.

As an employer, it’s very important to understand your obligations to your employees, including how long they can take for paternity leave, if and what they should be paid, and how you should support them throughout. Failure to comply with paternity leave regulations could mean your business may incur fines or face legal action. Furthermore, this decision would impact employee trust, engagement, and retention too.

When Can Paternity Leave Be Taken?

In the UK, Employees can choose to take either 1 week or 2 consecutive weeks’ paternity leave and the amount of time is the same even if they have more than one child (for example twins). However, paternity leave cannot start before the birth of the child. The start date must be the actual date of birth, an agreed number of days after the birth or an agreed number of days after the expected week of childbirth.

The employee’s paternity leave must finish within 56 days of the birth (or due date if the baby is early). Notification of intent to take paternity leave should be provided by the end of the 15th week before the baby is expected. Different rules apply in adoption scenarios.

Who is entitled to statutory paternity leave? 

If the employee is the birth father of a child or is the partner of the child’s mother/primary adopter, they may be eligible to take paternity leave.

To qualify for statutory paternity leave, your employee will usually need to have at least 26 weeks of continuous employment with you ending with the 15th week before the baby is due. Or in the case of adoption, the end of the week in which the child’s adopter is notified of being matched with the child.

Do you have an employee in your business looking to take paternity leave? Get in touch with us to check their eligibility, particularly if your scenario is more complex. For example, if it involves surrogacy or an employee who has taken time off to attend an adoption appointment about the same child.

Adoption Leave and Leave for antenatal appointments

Is the case the same for adoption?

In adoption cases, fathers and partners may also be entitled to adoption leave and pay. To determine eligibility, factors such as the child’s age, the employee’s service duration, and the nature of the adoption must be considered.

Employees must also give you proof of adoption to qualify for paternity pay. However, proof is not necessary for paternity leave unless you request it. Proof can be a letter from their adoption agency or their matching certificate. As an employer is it essential that you keep records of the proof.

Leave for antenatal appointments

Employees may take unpaid leave to accompany a pregnant woman to antenatal appointments. This is limited to 2 appointments of up to 6 and a half hours each. Employees are entitled to take leave for antenatal appointments if they are:

  • The baby’s father
  • The mother’s spouse or civil partner
  • In a long-term relationship with the pregnant mother
  • The intended parent (for example, if they’re having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement)

As an Employer, How Do I Manage Statutory Paternity Leave?

Managing statutory paternity leave is a crucial aspect of ensuring legal compliance and fostering a supportive work environment for your employees. Here are some concise tips on how to efficiently handle statutory paternity leave as an employer:

  1. Understand Eligibility Criteria: Before managing statutory paternity leave requests, it’s essential to understand the eligibility criteria. As an employer, you should do your research so you won’t be caught out. After all, it is a legal requirement and your business will be more reputable if they can manage statutory paternity leave correctly. 
  2. Non-Discrimination and Protection: It’s crucial to be aware that dismissing an employee for taking or seeking to take statutory paternity leave is automatically considered unfair and is legally protected. Employees also have protection from other detriments related to these rights, such as disciplinary actions or missed promotions. Discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal claims may arise in case of missteps.
  3. Check Employment Contracts: While we’ve covered the statutory aspects of paternity leave, it’s equally important to review your organisation’s employment contracts. Many businesses offer enhanced contractual rights to their employees, which can include better pay for time off during paternity leave than required by statute. Failing to check and communicate these entitlements can lead to misunderstandings and legal issues down the line.
  4. Seek Legal Guidance: Given the intricacies of employment law and the potential legal ramifications of mishandling paternity leave, it’s wise to consult legal experts or HR professionals for guidance. At Kingfisher Professional Services, we can help you navigate specific situations and ensure that your organisation is compliant with all legal obligations.

Conclusion 

In conclusion, understanding and effectively managing a father’s parental rights at work is essential for businesses to comply with the law and maintain positive employee relations. By following legal guidelines and providing the necessary support, employers can create a work environment that is accommodating to the needs of fathers and partners during significant family milestones.

If you require personalised guidance or have specific questions about family-friendly rights in your organisation, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Kingfisher Professional Services for expert advice.

FAQs

Are fathers legally protected when taking paternity leave?

Yes, employees are protected from unfair dismissal and other determinants when exercising their parental rights. Legal protections are in place to prevent employers from penalising employees for taking paternity leave or other related rights.

Can an employer refuse a request for paternity leave?

Generally, employers should not refuse paternity leave requests that meet legal criteria. However, requests for postponement can be considered under specific circumstances. This decision should not be taken lightly, and specific rules must be followed.

What is the difference between paternity leave and parental leave? 

Paternity leave is typically a shorter, more immediate form of leave taken around the birth of a child, whereas parental leave is a more extended, flexible option that can be used until a child’s 18th birthday for more varied reasons.

Are there any additional family-friendly rights for fathers beyond paternity leave?

Yes, fathers may have access to rights such as adoption leave, shared parental leave, time off for antenatal appointments, and dependent care leave. Employers should familiarise themselves with these options to provide appropriate support to their employees.