Over the next few months, employers will start receiving requests for additional paternity leave. Should you get one, you have the right to demand proof of eligibility. But what information can an employee be asked to produce?

As the law now stands, subject to qualifying conditions, the father, or mother’s partner, of a child born on, or after, 30 April 2011 can take:

l two weeks’ ordinary paternity leave within 56 days of the child’s birth; and

l a maximum of 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave (APL) in the first year of its life.

APL may only commence:

l once the child is 20 weeks old; and

l provided the employee had a minimum 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the 15th week before the "expected week of childbirth".

If they don’t meet both these criteria, regardless of the day the child was born, they won’t be entitled to take APL. Please note: the latter criterion applies to ordinary paternity leave too.

The legislation, rather short-sightedly, assumes that parents will truthfully self-certify their rights to APL (and Additional Paternity Pay where it is payable). In other words, there is no statutory requirement on you to make "official" checks on their entitlement. However, as some assurance, the powers that be have given you the right to request proof of eligibility.

So, within 28 days of receiving an employee’s APL request form, you have the right to ask them to produce further information in support of their application.

They must supply whatever you have asked for within 28 days. But exactly what information can you request? Well, as an absolute minimum, you can ask to see a copy of the birth certificate. This should confirm not only that the child does exist but the date it was born. Parents of babies born late March to early April 2011 may be tempted to alter the dates to their benefit.

If, after seeing this document, you still have doubts about eligibility, you can demand that the employee provide you with the contact details for the mother’s employer. In your paternity policy, make it clear that you have the right to request this information and that it must be supplied to you within 28 days.

Asking questions

However, if you do decide to contact the mother’s employer, remember that they have no statutory duty to co-operate. In fact, they may refuse to provide you with any information on the grounds of employee confidentiality. Equally, you don’t have to comply with any requests for information of this nature.

While this could be problematic, the fact you are prepared to seek this information could, in itself, deter any fraudulent APL applications.

l For a free sample of our APL request form, letter requesting eligibility of APL or Paternity Leave Policy, please contact the NAMB on 01920 468061.