Fathers have often been deemed to have less rights than mothers when it comes to taking time off work to look after their children. But with the changes to the law in recent years, there are now a variety of options available to existing and soon-to-be fathers. Some of the main rights and protections are briefly explained below.
Paternity leave is an entitlement to either one or two consecutive whole weeks leave from work. This leave can be taken by partners of the mother, and by partners of the ‘primary adopter’ if the child is being adopted. You can take paternity leave any time within the first eight weeks after the baby is born.
Until recently, paternity leave was the main entitlement available to fathers.
An employer doesn’t have to pay you your normal salary during paternity leave, although as the father you may be entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay.
Shared Parental Leave
Shared parental leave provides the right for parents to share the leave historically only available to mothers (or elected adopters) between both parents. This does not provide more leave overall, but allows for it to be split between the parents as they wish.
There are various requirements to become eligible for shared parental leave, including a necessity for both parents to be or have been employed for a certain period of time immediately prior to and subsequently to the birth (or adoption).
Shared parental leave can be taken in addition to paternity leave. However, the paternity leave must be taken before the shared parental leave.
An alternative to taking shared parental leave when adopting would be for the father to consider taking ordinary and additional adoption leave.
Adoption leave is very similar to maternity leave, although there are some differences. For example, adopters (along with their partner) may also have a right to take time off work to attend adoption appointments prior to the placement of the child.
Eligibility for adoption leave is not limited to adoptive mothers of the child. However, the entitlement is for the parent who has been elected as the “adopter”. The remaining parent is then likely to be eligible for paternity leave (see above).
Adoption leave is an alternative to shared parental leave – no-one is eligible to both types of leave for the same child.
Rights for Fathers
Fathers who have taken any of the types of leave above are protected by certain rights.
One of the major rights enjoyed by a father is the right to return to his role at the end of his leave. However, there may be situations where such a right is not available. It is important that legal advice is sought immediately if your employer refuses to allow you to return to your original role.
Fathers who have taken leave are also protected against dismissal or detrimental behaviour as a result of exercising this right.
Parental leave is an entitlement all fathers (and mothers) receive to allow them time off work to care for a child. Any parent who has been employed by their current employer for at least one year is entitled to up to 18 weeks leave.
This is an additional right to any of the types of leave above, and can be used at any time until the child reaches 18 years old. However, there is no entitlement for the parent to be paid for this time off.
If you believe you have been the victim of detrimental behaviour by your employer or would just like to know more about your rights as a working father, our Employment Solicitors can help you.