Parents should be aware of the changes to their Maternity and Paternity leave entitlements. From 3rd April 2011 new regulations will take effect which entitle a new father to take up to 26 weeks additional paternity leave. The regulations are designed to provide parents of children due or matched for adoption on or after this date with greater flexibility and allow them to fully utilise their maternity and paternity leave. Fathers are currently able to take up to two weeks paternity leave which is paid at the statutory rate. The standard rate of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will also increase from £124.88 to £128.73 from 3rd April 2011. The new regulations will allow fathers (or partners) to take up to 26 weeks leave provided that the following conditions are met: 1. The mother or primary adopter must be eligible for maternity entitlement and must have returned to work without taking all of her maternity leave. 2. The employee must have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks to be calculated from the 14th week before the child’s expected birth. 3. The employee must provide the employer with at least eight weeks notice outlining their intention to take the additional paternity leave. 4. The employee must give a signed declaration stating that the purpose of the leave is to care for the child. The mother or primary adopter must also provide the employer with a declaration giving their personal details and the date on which they intend to return to work. The declaration must also include a statement to the effect that the employee has (excluding them) the main responsibility for caring for the child. The additional paternity leave may be taken anytime between 20 weeks and one year after the date of birth or adoption. It is evident that these changes provide a much more flexible option for parents’ particularly where the mother is the highest earner. However, some argue that UK businesses are unprepared and simply not ready for the changes, which could have a negative effect on them in view of the current economic problems that they face. It is estimated that between 4% and 7% of those eligible for the new leave will take it, which would subsequently mean that only 1% of small businesses are expected to be affected. So how will this affect you the employer? Employers should have existing policies in place to manage maternity, paternity and adoption leave however, they should now consider adjusting or extending these to make adequate provisions for these additional paternity leave entitlements. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. The Employment Team at Gepp & Sons deals with a wide range of employment issues, seeking to support and protect both employers and employees. If you need any advice on the issues raised within this article we will be pleased to assist, so do please give our Employment Department a call on 01245 228141 (Direct Dial).