New paternity laws effective April 2010 plus some other important news

From April 06 2010 the new paternity laws come into being. BUT….they won’t apply in the case of parents of babies born before 3rd April 2011, so you have some time to adjust to the idea of the new regulations.

The new rights, when in force, will entitle fathers to up to an additional 26 weeks paternity leave if the mother returns to work before her standard 12 months leave entitlement has been used up. The father can effectively take the balance of the mother’s unused leave and if any unused statutory maternity pay is left from the mother’s unused leave this transfers to the father in the form of statutory paternity pay. So, as most women are entitled to 9 months statutory maternity pay (SMP), the maximum balance of statutory paternity pay (SPP) transferable to the father would be 3 months. If he chose to take a further 3 months (bringing the mother + father leave to a total of 12 months) the last 3 months would be without pay.

Employees are able to self certificate for paternity leave and HMRC requires records to be kept for a period of 3 years following payment of SPP. Remember that beyond April 2011 this will be a statutory right, so refusing leave or refusing payment for leave or subjecting the father to detriment for asking for or taking leave would be unlawful. Nearer the time we will update’s paternity and maternity leave policies and procedures to reflect these changes.

Also delayed until 2011 the Agency Workers Directive (AWD) will come into force. If you employ agency workers they will become entitled to the same pay and most benefits as your full time employees after 12 weeks of service. The new laws come into force in 2011 (October probably) and if you do use employment agency staff you should be discussing the implications of the AWD now with your agency provider.

Also of note is some recent case law on holiday pay for workers, in particular centring around an employee who broke his ankle while on a holiday period agreed with his employer. By the time he had returned from holiday the current leave year had expired and his employer refused to let him have his holiday back (he had asked for the holiday to be swapped with sick leave). The employment tribunal ruled that in circumstances of this nature the employer should have allowed the employee to substitute sick for holiday leave and should have been allowed to have rescheduled his holiday leave even though the old year in which he had accrued it had finished. This case builds on a plethora of other cases around the accrual of holiday while on long term sick leave with the current position being that holiday does indeed continue to accrue and will carry over into a new leave year whether or not a ‘use it or lose it’ policy is on place with the employer.

Finally we will round off this news item with ‘fit notes‘. Fit notes replaced sick notes from April and doctors are now required to assess whether an ill employee is able to do some work, or work of a certain nature. This is designed to tackle a widely held belief that GPs are too quick to sign off employees as unfit to work, with the resultant impact on employers and the economy. The proof of the pudding as always will be in the eating. At we have over the years assisted many of our subscribers to attain medical information from GPs to help expedite absent employees’ return to work.

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