Ed Miliband announced last week that should Labour win the pending general election, the party will increase the rights to paternity leave and pay.
Currently an employee who satisfies the basic criteria is entitled to take up to two weeks paternity leave, paid at the statutory rate, currently £138.18.
The Labour Party now proposes to not only increase paternity leave to 4 weeks, but to also almost double the payment rate to £260 per week. The rationale for this is that currently only 55% of new Fathers are said to take paternity leave, citing in the main financial pressure as the reason they do not take the leave.
Responding to this announcement, Darryll Thomas, Employment Law specialist at the Wilkes Partnership LLP states ‘It is certainly the case that the uptake on paternity leave is not as high as it should be and the main reason for this would almost certainly be financial. However, this decision could have serious implications for business. Introducing such changes so soon after the introduction of what looks to be a reasonably complicated piece of legislation in relation to shared parental leave is only going to cause confusion and extra administration for businesses as employers grapple with a variety of different regimes.
Additionally, increasing paternity leave from 2 to 4 weeks is going to lead to additional difficulties, in particular for small businesses. Businesses are quite used to dealing with absences of 1-2 weeks through annual leave requests, however 4 weeks brings a completely new challenge and in some circumstances may well lead to businesses having to recruit temporary staff to cope with the absence, which is a cost many businesses will struggle with.
Of course, such proposals are just that at this stage and may never come to fruition as they are entirely dependent on the labour party being successful at the general election in May.
For further information or to discuss an employment law issue, please contact Darryll Thomas on 0121 733 8000 or [email protected].