New paternity benefits will be available next year, allowing men to take up to 26 weeks, 6 months, extra paternity leave, as oppose to the previous allowance of one or two weeks. There are, however, concerns over the impact that this change will have on human resources.
Many employers are troubled by this news as they believe it will instigate the need for communication between the parents’ employers, and thus cause an increase in paperwork. They claim that with maternity or paternity leave in small businesses, the issue “is not the pay or the leave, but the paperwork”, which will now disrupt two jobs and two companies.
But others are not concerned; They think it’s unlikely that organizations will be flooded with requests for 6 months’ leave. The government’s draft consultation document for additional paternity leave itself only estimated the number of eligible fathers who would apply for the extra leave as somewhere between 4 and 8 percent. One reason that is often cited for this low up-take is that men dislike salary cuts and would prefer to use their annual leave to spend time with their child. Paternity pay is the lower of either £124.88/week or 90 percent of the father’s salary.
One large benefit that is thought will arise from these changes is the increase in equality between men and women at work. It is hoped that employers will be deterred from thinking that women are bad to employ since they’re the ones who will have children and take time off. It will also aid the roughly calculated one fifth of women who earn more than their partners, for whom it makes more sense to be the ones working.
A number of companies, like Accenture, have enhanced their maternity, paternity and adoption provisions recently to help their employees, and have since found an increase in the number of women returning to work after leave. For smaller organizations, increasing pay or time of leave isn’t feasible financially, but companies like the charity Can Mezzanine say that they try to compensate for this by offering more flexible hours and the opportunity to work from home.
The Return to Work
The return to work is often a daunting prospect for parents who have taken leave and been out of touch with their work or company. Hence the government also recently introduced in 2007 the ‘keeping in touch’ policy, where employees are paid for isolated days of work throughout their leave. Though some argue that this is simply problematic as isolated days of work have limited value and calculating pay is difficult, others believe it enables a smoother return to work after a long absence. Like the new paternity benefits, the effects of this policy may take time to become apparent.
The paternity benefits are set to begin in April of 2011, when men will become entitled to additional statutory paternity pay, although only up until the point at which the mother’s statutory maternity pay would have come to an end. So since mother’s are entitled to 39 weeks’ pay, a father taking over at 26 weeks would be entitled to 13 weeks’ pay followed by 13 weeks of unpaid leave. The leave must also be taken before the child’s first birthday, and once maternity leave is over and the mother has returned to work.