On 6 April 2010, new fathers were granted additional paternity leave and pay rights. They can now take up to six months off. So how is this supposed to work in practice and is it something you need to worry about now?

The new ’Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010’ came into force on the back of the Work and Families Act 2010. So what rights do new fathers have?

These Regulations allow new mothers to transfer the second six months of their maternity leave to the child’s father. Where this is done, he can claim Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP), currently paid at the rate of £124.88 per week, for any amount of time that she would have been entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay.

In order for the father to exercise this right, the mother must have returned to work she cannot be continuing her own maternity leave. Also, the father cannot take it until the child is 20 weeks old. However, while the government has promised that provisions will be put in place so that employers and HMRC can make checks on any claims, it hasn’t yet said precisely how this will be done. It seems it will be down to the parents to "self-certify" that what they are claiming for is correct.

Even though the regulations are in force, they only apply to new fathers where the expected birth of a child falls on, or after, 3 April 2011, which is nearly a year away.

Those of you who paid close attention in biology classes will have noticed that any fathers who are currently awaiting the birth of a child won’t be able to use these regulations and neither will any others for a couple of months. Until then, existing statutory paternity leave and pay rights will continue unchanged up to 2 April 2011. At present, entitlement is a maximum of two weeks’ leave, paid at the rate of £124.88 per week. This can only be taken in one go, or in one-week blocks. There is no statutory right to take it as single days, although you can agree to this.

Under these regulations, there is no small employer exemption. It will apply regardless of the number of employees. However, as there is nearly a year until they have any impact, there is no need for you to panic about them as yet