Enfield law firm Vanderpump & Sykes Solicitors are advising parents about changing employment legislation regarding paternity leave.

Many parents find it difficult to share the parenting responsibility equally, with mothers wanting to return to the workplace early without having to send their child to nursery and fathers wanting to spend more time with their child in the early stages of their life.

As a result, the government has announced changes to the regulations regarding paternity leave, which will come into force on 3rd April 2011.

Richard Stephens, partner in the employment department of Vanderpump & Sykes Solicitors said “For any children due on or after that date, if a mother returns to work without using all of her year-long maternity leave, the father will be able to take the remaining time, up to a maximum of three months paid at the statutory rate together with three months of unpaid leave.

“By 2015, the coalition aims to have introduced a truly flexible system for sharing parental duties, which will actively encourage fathers to take time off. It plans to release a consultation paper shortly to consider the best ways of implementing this”.

The government will also soon reveal plans to extend the right to request flexible hours to grandparents and close family friends, who parents often rely on for help with childcare. There may also be a proposal to extend the right to flexible working to all employees.

While families will benefit from greater choice in how they balance work and childcare, employers need to prepare for these changes to ensure they are ready to handle requests for increased paternity leave. Employers are therefore advised to update their paternity policies accordingly ahead of the change.