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Proposed extended paternity leave to take effect from April 2011

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The Government has published draft regulations allowing fathers longer paternity leave from 2011.

Following the recent uncertainty surrounding the extension of maternity pay and paternity rights, the Government has proposed the regulations, once finalised, will come into force next April, enabling mothers of children due on or after 3 April 2011 to transfer up to six months of their maternity leave to the father when they return to work.

According to employment lawyers at Eversheds, this may or not be paid leave, depending upon the amount of statutory maternity pay already received by the mother. Similar rules will apply to adoptive parents.

The draft regulations do not affect the maternity or adoption pay period and there are no plans to increase this period to 12 months, in line with the period of leave, as was promised previously.

Audrey Williams, partner at Eversheds, said: "The Government has been at pains to stress that its aim is to ‘minimise the administrative burdens on business' but inevitably employers will be concerned over the potential administrative burden of the scheme.

"Many will be relieved the current proposals require no obligation for a father's employer to look beyond the self-certification of leave provided by the parents. But should employers choose to verify birth or adoption or the mother's return to work, the employee is obliged to provide that information.

"The Government estimates that between 10 and 20,000 fathers may take up the right to additional paternity leave each year but it will be interesting to see whether this transpires. It will also be interesting to see whether, over time and coupled with other sociological shifts in attitudes to equality, these changes will engender more far-reaching consequences in the workplace. Might employers eventually opt to extend enhanced maternity pay schemes to fathers, for example, as a recruitment incentive or job perk?"