Theresa May put forward several proposals before she left office; one of these are plans to introduce 12 weeks of leave for new fathers.

The plans suggested that the first four weeks of paternity leave would be paid at 90 per cent of normal salary. An additional eight weeks paternity leave would be unpaid. This is intended to reduce the gender pay gap by encouraging increased sharing of parental responsibilities and enabling women to return to work sooner.

At present, fathers receive just two weeks paid paternity leave at the lower of 90 per cent of their salary or the SPP rate. May’s policy would double the period of paid paternity leave and significantly increase paternity pay for most employees.

ONS figures for 2018 show that the gender pay gap reduced to 8.6 per cent for full-time employees – down 0.5 per cent from 2017, when Mrs May announced her drive to tackle the gender pay gap. However, the gap among all employees (whether full-time or part-time) is 17.9 per cent.

A cap on the proposed paternity pay is reportedly now being considered for those earning more than £100,000, to reduce the cost to businesses.

Experience also suggests that the uptake of the unpaid element of new paternity leave rights may be very limited. Statutory shared parental leave is already available for fathers, intended parents, adoptive parents or the mother’s partner. However, it’s estimated that as little as 2 per cent of those who are eligible use the scheme.

As it stands, fathers get two weeks paid paternity leave, but are also entitled to 50 weeks shared parental leave, together with four weeks ordinary parental leave. Yet relatively few fathers avail themselves of these rights. It therefore seems unlikely that the unpaid eight weeks of the new paternity leave scheme would be taken up by most fathers, particularly since during the maternity period mothers are typically on reduced pay.

Clearly if this is introduced the burden of both communicating it and managing it is likely to rest on businesses. There will be a change in written policy (should you have one) and clearly an issue of how you deal with applications and management of staff if one makes an application to take paternity leave. There is no indication that such a change will lead to exemptions for small businesses, so any extra burden is likely to apply to all.

Mrs May put forward quite a number of proposals when she left office so we will need to see which one or ones the Government decide to implement – given the current nature of things; none of us are sure when such a change (or changes) will occur.

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