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Many firms dithering over paternity leave, say campaigners

Four in ten employers are not ready for additional paternity leave, but one in five employers have promised enhanced pay to fathers, research reveals.

Work-life balance organisation Working Families has carried out a survey of employers' readiness for the changes to additional paternity leave (APL) and pay, introduced for parents of babies due on or after 3 April 2011.

The regulations mean that fathers qualifying will be permitted to take the maximum of 26 weeks additional paternity leave prior to the child turning one. The right to take such leave only applies after the mother has returned to work with some statutory maternity leave left untouched.

Working Families' survey found 60% of employers have already updated their policies to reflect the introduction of APL and additional statutory paternity pay (ASPP), but 40% have not yet done so. Most of those who have not made changes plan to do so within two months. Just under a fifth (19%) of the employers who have made policy changes plan to pay fathers six weeks on full pay when they take APL. A wide range of policies are proposed for after the first six weeks - some plan to offer further enhancements, others reflect statutory maternity pay (SMP) rates with six weeks of enhanced pay followed by the statutory rates.

Two out of three employers who have made policy changes plan to pay fathers only the statutory paternity pay of £128.73 per week (or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings, whichever is lower) during additional paternity leave, even though 65% of these offer enhanced maternity pay for the equivalent weeks to a female employee on maternity leave. Two-thirds (64%) of employers saw APL as a legal obligation that they would have to comply with, but 22% saw its potential as a means of improving operational effectiveness.

Commenting on the results, Sarah Jackson, Working Families chief executive, said: "It is surprising that 40% of employers report that they are not yet prepared for the change in the law. Parents of babies due on or after 3 April may already want to discuss their plans to share leave. I am pleased to see how many employers recognise the benefits of treating fathers well and will offer above the minimum statutory payments.

"Many fathers don't take ordinary paternity leave now because they can't afford to lose pay at a time when family costs increase. Our research also shows that giving fathers greater control and flexibility to improve their work/life balance improves their loyalty and commitment to an organisation. Businesses that do right by fathers will reap the benefits."

The survey of 250 employers was carried out online between 2 and 17 March 2011. There were 85 usable responses across all sectors, 46 responses were from large organisations and 39 from small and medium-sized organisations.