Maternity and paternity leave from 3 April 2011: explaining the changes

3 February 2011

The new arrangements will become law as from 3 April 2011 and will apply to any baby due on or adopted on or after that date*.

Fathers will be able to take up any Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay (ML & SMP) or Maternity Allowance (SMA) that their wife, partner or civil partner does not take – after she has been on leave for 26 weeks.

Note:  SMP is paid by the government to the employer – who pays the mother and recoups the cost from the government.

Note:  mothers who don’t qualify for SMP – they haven’t worked for their employer for long enough, for instance, or have not been employed – get Maternity Allowance (MA).  This is paid directly to the mother through the benefits system.

The minimum point at which the father can take up either of these leaves is when his baby is 20 weeks old – and only then if the mother returns to (or starts) work.

Note:   If the mother dies, the father can take up the remainder of her maternity leave at any time before the first 26 weeks as well as afterwards – up until the child’s first birthday.

During her 26 weeks at home, the mother is paid at 90% of her pay for the first six weeks, and receives the next 20 weeks at income support level (£124.88 per week).  If she goes back to work before she has taken 26 weeks’ leave, she loses any payment for weeks not taken – and so does the family:  the father cannot take it.  And he can’t begin his own Additional Paternity Leave before that time: he could look after his baby of course, but not ‘officially’ and not paid or with his job held open.

Once the 20 weeks point is reached, the father can begin taking up the unused section of his partner’s entitlement to leave/pay. This means he can get a maximum 13 weeks at £124.88 per week, and another 13 weeks at no pay.  All this has to be taken before his child’s first birthday.

Once the father starts taking this leave, it is called Additional Paternity Leave and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (APL & ASPP).  The father’s eligibility to take this leave is that he has to be have worked for his own employer for the requisite amount of time and given notice correctly (see the FATHERS link below to find out more about his eligibility).

How do parents prove their eligibility for the father to receive Additional Paternity Leave (and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay) – i.e. to take up the remainder of the mother’s entitlement to leave/pay?  Both parents will be required to “self certify” by each providing details of their eligibility to their employer. Employers and HM Revenue and Customs will both be able to carry out further checks of entitlement if necessary.

*Please note: this is a correction; we originally said ‘born on or adopted on’, but this was incorrect and we apologise for any confusion caused.

More information for fathers

Find out more at the governement’s public services site, Directgov.

More information for employers

Find out more at the goverment’s Business Link site.

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