The next year brings some major changes to family-friendly rights in the UK.

Shared system of parental leave and pay

The current position in the UK is that:

  • Mothers are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and Statutory Maternity Pay for up to 39 weeks.
  • Statutory Maternity Pay is payable at a rate of 90% of average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, and the Government’s prescribed rate of £138.18 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
  • Fathers are entitled to two weeks paternity leave and pay.
  • Statutory Paternity Pay is payable at the Government’s prescribed rate of £138.18 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
  • Maternity leave can be transferred from the mother to the father from 20 weeks after birth (as “additional paternity leave”). Fathers can take 2 - 26 weeks additional paternity leave within the window of 20 to 52 weeks after birth.

For children born after 5 April 2015, there will be a radical new system of shared parental leave where:

  • Parents can share 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ pay. The mother must take the first two weeks of leave after the birth but the rest can be shared.
  • Parents will be able to mix and match leave. Parents can take the leave at the same time as each other or separately. Leave can be taken in blocks in multiples of complete weeks.

Employers will need to be careful to avoid discriminatory treatment between men and women in relation to enhanced pay and requests for leave.

Time off to attend antenatal appointments

Currently, pregnant women have the right to paid time off during working hours for antenatal appointments (i.e., parenting classes recommended by doctor or midwife).

From 1 October 2014, fathers/partners of pregnant women will have the right to time off to accompany their partner to two antenatal appointments (with each one lasting no more than 6.5 hours).