How United Kingdom’s New Paternity Leave Rules Compare to U.S.

In early April, the United Kingdom took another step on the road to equal paternity rights.

While the Additional Paternity Leave (APL) regulations initially came about in April 2010, they will finally start coming into play as the British government just recently decided to officially move forward with the ruling.

By no means does the UK’s newly constructed paternity rules represent radical change. It appears the impact of these laws will be minimal at best.

But while UK fathers don’t seem too impressed, they actually have it much sweeter than dads in the United States when it comes to paternity leave.

Under UK’s new paternity rules, fathers of children either born or adopted after April 3 may request additional time off from work during the first year of the child’s birth. Those with children due before, yet born after this date are also eligible.

Prior to the legislation, fathers were only allowed two weeks of paid leave, which is still the case. What the UK has basically done is provided a way for mom and dad to divvy up their maternity leave duties and receive minimal compensation in the process.

To contrast, under the federally mandated Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), both U.S. fathers and mothers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of maternity leave. This is all unpaid, approved time away from the job. Unfortunately, this is a luxury an alarming number of fathers do not have.

According to a report from the United Auto Workers, roughly 40% of the U.S. workforce is not eligible for time off because they either have not been with their current employer long enough or work for a company that has less than 50 employees. Even when eligible, receiving paid leave is a rare occurrence for U.S. dads.

The one major plus U.S. paternity legislation has going for it lies in the fact that the FMLA provides great protection for fathers. So if you meet all eligibility requirements, you shouldn’t have much trouble out of your boss when it comes to getting time off.

While the UK’s APL isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, it is actually quite generous in comparison to U.S. laws. British fathers who agree are probably rejoicing.


Eligibility Requirements in UK

The UK’s APL does come with a few specific eligibility requirements. These requirements are quite similar to those of ordinary paternity leave for fathers and include the following:

– Must be continuously employed for a minimum of 26 weeks by the 15th week before the child is due.

– Must be the father, married to, or the partner of the child’s mother.

– Must have or intend to have primary responsibility of raising the child with the natural or adoptive mother.

– Must take leave to care for child or mother.

– Must meet various APL notification requirements.

On another eligibility note, the mother must have returned to work and stopped receiving maternity benefits before the father can take leave.

Bittersweet

UK fathers have received a little more leverage in what has traditionally been an uneven playing field. Above all, they now have the opportunity to indulge themselves in 100% of the newborn experience, including the bottle warming, the diaper changing, and the rocking to sleep after a bout of ear splitting screaming.

These are special moments fathers will no longer have to miss out on. There is also the added benefit of knowing their job is waiting for them once it’s time to head back to work.

However, not everyone is thrilled about the UK’s new paternity law, and this is for good reason. Even if fathers do qualify by meeting eligibility requirements, there is still a potential roadblock in the way – their employer, who happens to have the right to refuse the request.

While the employer must take the request under consideration, they can refuse to approve the additional paternity leave for valid reasons that fall in line with the new legislation. This could be an issue in smaller companies that are already understaffed and short on resources.

The APL definitely has some upside to it, but fathers can’t just leave at their leisure. A father looking forward to spending time with their newborn will have to wait a certain amount of time, 20 weeks to be exact.

Once approved by their employer and the mother returns to work, the father may receive up to £128.73 per week until the child reaches 39 weeks, essentially receiving the compensation the mother would have been entitled to. From there, all additional leave is unpaid for both parents and the father has up to 26 weeks to return to work.

Although the new paternity laws give UK fathers rights they didn’t have before, there is already research showing that many of them will not take the government up on this opportunity. According to a survey conducted by uSwitch, 26% of men said they were worried that taking the additional paternity leave would result in a career setback. An overwhelming 49% said their line of work wouldn’t allow them to take the time off. In all, four out of 10 fathers claim that they will not even bother with the extra leave.

uSwitch’s survey shows that the APL has fathers concerned about their family’s financial situation, and this is very understandable in a harsh economic climate where money is tighter than ever.

Judging from the responses, most dads may just decide to spend time with their newborn after punching out and returning home, which has been a common practice in many households, countries and cultures for years.

The divorce attorneys for men at Cordell & Cordell handle many domestic litigation issues, including paternity. Contact the Cordell & Cordell Law Firm or learn more information about paternity laws on DadsDivorce.com.

 


Matt Allen

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