If a child is due on or after 3 April 2011, the father or mother’s partner will be entitled to 26 weeks’ "additional paternity leave". But babies are rarely on time. So what happens if they arrive before the legal deadline?

More rights on the horizon

We previously explained that where a child is due on or after 3rd April 2011, then the father or mother’s partner will be entitled to take a maximum 26 weeks’ "additional paternity leave" (APL) in the first year of its life. However, APL can only commence once the child is 20 weeks old.

This new statutory right is granted under the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010 and is in addition to the existing right to two weeks’ paternity leave within eight weeks of a child’s birth. Other than being renamed "ordinary paternity leave", this particular right remains unaffected. But babies often fail to turn up on the date predicted by the medics some make an early appearance and others decide to hang on.

However, APL won’t kick in for a while the earliest it could commence is 21 August 2011 that is, 20 weeks after 6 April 2011. Those employees who may be the first to take advantage of it will soon know that they are about to become parents. So you are likely to start getting queries when they confirm the "expected week of childbirth" (EWC).

However, the lack of certainty on arrival dates has flagged up a query for our members. Suppose a child is due on or after 3 April 2011, but actually arrives early will the eligible employees still have the right to take APL, or do they lose it?

Before any employee can claim APL, they must have a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the 15th week before the EWC. If they don’t, regardless of the day the baby is born, they won’t be entitled to take it.

Assuming this is OK, but the child is born early in other words, the mother’s due date met the APL criteria then they will still be entitled to it. These Regulations have been designed around the EWC, rather than the actual birth date, because this is so impossible to predict.

Required notice periods

Remember, an employee must give you eight weeks’ written notice of their intention to take APL. It must specify both the date the child was expected to be born and the actual date of birth. If you have any doubts on entitlements, you can ask them to produce medical evidence on dates. APL is likely to throw up many other queries and we will be revisiting the topic again.

Note: An eligible employee will only be entitled to APL if the mother has returned to work they cannot both be off at the same time.

If an employee indicates their intention to take APL, remind them that they are only entitled to additional statutory paternity pay during what would have been the mother’s statutory maternity pay period. The rest of APL is unpaid and this fact should make them consider their actions carefully.

l Call 01920 458061 for the NAMB’s policy for additional paternity leave.