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maternity & paternity rights

New changes concerning both maternity and paternity entitlements have been in place from April 2003. For further information please consult the government's DTI website at www.dti.gov.uk which is very helpful, extremely detailed and covers all aspects on this subject.

New maternity leave rights will benefit you if your expected week of childbirth begins on or after 6 April 2003. The length of ordinary maternity leave has been increased and you will now be entitled to 26 weeks' ordinary maternity leave, regardless of how long you have worked for your employer (ordinary maternity leave is normally paid leave).
If you have completed 26 weeks continuous service with your employer by the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth, you are able to take additional maternity leave which starts immediately after ordinary maternity leave and continues for a further 26 weeks. Additional maternity leave is usually unpaid although find out if you have contractual rights to pay during this period.
You should notify your employer of your intention to take maternity leave by the 15th week before you're expected week of childbirth. You will need to tell your employer that you're pregnant, the week your baby is expected to be born and when you want your maternity leave to start (you can change your mind about this date, providing you tell your employer at least 28 days in advance).

There was no statutory entitlement to paternity leave before the new paternity laws were introduced and you were fortunate if your employer chose to make provision within your contract of employment as they were not obliged to do this.

Since 6 April 2003 however, fathers have for the first time been entitled to take additional time off work (special notice arrangements apply). You are entitled to take ten days paternity leave on the birth of your child and will be paid £100 per week (i.e. £200) statutory paternity pay. Employers will pay this money and depending on the size of this organisation will be able to claim it back from the state.
You may need to qualify for paternity leave. For example if you are unmarried you must expect to have a responsibility for your child's upbringing, you must be the biological father or the husband/partner of the mother and have worked continuously for your employer for 26 weeks leading into the 15th week before the baby is due.
You must choose to take either one week or two weeks' paternity leave (not odd days) and you can start this from the date of the birth, from a number of days or weeks after your child's birth or from a chosen date as long as it is within 56 days of the birth or expected week of birth.
You must tell your employer of your intention to take paternity leave by the 15th week before your baby is expected and you will need to inform them of the week your baby is due, whether they wish for one or two weeks leave and when they wish their leave to start (you can change your mind about this but you must give 28 days notice).
going back to work

One of the hardest aspects of settling back into everyday life for dad is going back to work.
It is natural that new dads will want to telephone home every five minutes to ensure that everything is fine. But your partner or the babysitter will have enough on their minds without having to answer the telephone constantly so try to resist this urge. Why not buy a mobile phone so that you can be contacted immediately if necessary. This will put both your minds at ease.
Try to get up earlier than normal to ensure that food is prepared so there is one less thing on your partner's list. Inform people at work so they are more understanding to your plight and appreciate that your mind may be on other things. Even if you have a bad day, try not to take your work anxieties out on your partner as her day might have been just as trying as yours.
Most importantly, spend the time at home with your newborn, planning your evenings and weekends effectively. This is a crucial time to develop that special bond with your child.
further information

Check the DTI website and its interactive guidance site for the latest updates.
Guidance booklets are available from the DTI Publications Orderline on 0870 1502 500 or can be ordered over the Internet.
Employers can get more information on SPP from the Inland Revenue. For additional help, employers may phone the employers' helpline on 0845 714 3143.
Further advice on employment law matters, including the new rights, as well as good practice guidance is available from offices of ACAS
Small businesses can register at www.businesslink.org to receive reminders and updates about changes to employment law. Information is also available on a wide range of help for small businesses.

Information on all aspects of employment legislation can usually be provided by accountants, citizens advice bureaus, employer organisations, legal advisers, low pay units, trade unions and a number of private sector and voluntary bodies.

The Children's Project says…

Should you decide to return to work quickly and baby is to be cared for by other people, the quality of that care is important. Stable arrangements, with high ratios of caregivers to children, good morale and continuity of carers, are key elements that are likely to promote greater sensitivity to the child's needs.*

Attachments formed by baby involve strong emotions to do with dependency and security. There is no intrinsic reason why the baby's attachment to dad or other carer should not be as secure as that to her mother as the nature of attachment depends on the quality of the interactions that take place.*

* Text From The Social Baby