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Consultation launched on new paternity leave plans

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The government has published its consultation document on plans to extend paid paternity leave.

The proposals were initially set out last month. Under the scheme, fathers are to be given the right to take up to six months of paternity leave in order to look after their children.

At the moment, fathers are entitled to two weeks paid paternity leave and mothers to 52 weeks maternity leave, of which up to 39 weeks are paid. Employed parents can also claim a total of 13 weeks unpaid parental leave until the child’s fifth birthday.

Families, if they choose, will be able to transfer the last six months of maternity leave to the father, which can be taken by the father once the mother has returned to work. Of that six months, three months will be paid leave at the normal maternity rate of £123.06 per week.

The government’s timetable is to have the changes in place by April 2010 and to apply them to working parents whose children are due on or after 3 April 2011.

It is estimated that the take-up of the additional paternity leave will be less than 6 per cent and that it will affect 0.7 per cent, or 1 in every 137, of all small businesses.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has also issued advice for employers on the extension.

In most instances, the additional paternity leave will become payable from 2011-12.

But, HMRC said, there may be some claims before the start of 2011-12, at the earliest from November 2010. The circumstances, though, would have to be highly exceptional, involving premature births, and the number of cases very small.

HMRC added that commercially produced payroll software is not expected to be in place to help employers with those small number of early cases in 2010-11. Instead the Revenue will provide an electronic calculator on its website, as well as a helpline calculation and advice service.

The employer annual return (forms P35 and P14) for 2010-11 will not be updated to allow firms to report additional paternity pay. Instead employers should record any entries for 2010-11 in the existing SPP boxes.