Five Questions About: New paternity leave rules

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The Independent Online

What's changing?

In April last year, the government passed new regulations for paternity leave, which come into force for parents of babies due on or after 3 April. These allow fathers to take up to 26 weeks' additional time off to care for their new baby, on top of the two weeks they get at the birth of their child. If the mother chooses to return to work during her paid leave then the father may qualify for paid leave at the same rate.

How much is statutory maternity pay?

Qualifying mothers receive six weeks at 90 per cent of their average gross weekly earnings. For the remaining 33 weeks of their paid leave entitlement, they receive either £124.88 a week or 90 per cent of their weekly earnings, whichever is lower. The standard rate of statutory maternity pay rises to £128.73 a week from 11 April. However, to qualify for statutory pay, mothers-to-be must have been with the same employer for at least 26 weeks before they reach the 25th week of pregnancy. If the mother returns to work after 20 weeks then employed fathers could be entitled to a further 19 weeks of this statutory pay.

Are there any more changes on the horizon?

Sunday's changes are just an interim measure. The Government has committed to setting up a far more flexible system of shared parental leave. It plans to launch new rules in 2015.

Why the changes?

The Government believes the current rules "patronise women and marginalise men" by assuming all mothers want to be the care-givers while men are the only breadwinners.

What other rights do parents have?

Parents have rights to unpaid leave during their children's early lives. Each parent can take up to 13 weeks unpaid leave for each child up to their fifth birthday – up to their 18th birthday if disabled. Most employees also have the right to request a flexible working pattern, which the employer has a legal duty to consider.

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