In October the Coalition Government confirmed that it will implement the Additional Paternity Leave (APL) Regulations for parents of babies due on or after the 3rd April 2011 or adoptive parents notified as having been matched with a child on or after 3rd April 2011.

The APL Regulations give certain employees (usually the father) the right to take up to 6 months Paternity Leave. This is separate and in addition to the existing right to take 2 weeks Paternity Leave after the child's birth (which has been renamed 'Ordinary Paternity Leave' or OPL). Only employees who qualify for OPL, remain in employment up to the date they intend to take APL and whose spouse/partner (i.e. the mother or primary adopter) has returned to work before the end of their maternity or adoption leave will be eligible to take APL. Furthermore APL cannot be taken until the child is 20 weeks old (or 20 weeks from date of placement for adoption). Although fathers can take up to 6 months APL, it can be for any period of between 2 and 26 weeks.

An employee must give their employer at least 8 weeks notice of their intention to take APL. The notice must confirm the child's date of birth (or adoption), their relationship to the mother and/or child, when they intend to take APL and a declaration by the mother/primary adopter confirming the date they intend to return to work. Employers can prepare their own form for employees or request they use the forms prepared by HMRC, SC7 (for births) and SC8 (for adoptions) which are both available on the directgov website. Within 28 days of receiving the notice, an employer can request a copy of the child's birth certificate or adoption matching certificate and employment details of the mother/primary adopter. The employee has 28 days to provide this information.

Fathers who take APL may qualify for Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (ASPP) if their APL is taken during the mother's Statutory Maternity/Adoption Pay or Maternity Allowance pay period (usually the first 39 weeks of maternity or adoption leave). ASPP is paid at the standard rate of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Therefore if APL is taken in the last 3 months of maternity or adoption leave it will be unpaid.

Although the numbers of fathers expected to take APL is relatively small, employers should ensure that company paternity leave policies refer to the eligibility criteria and notice requirements for APL. Employers should consider whether APL will be paid at the statutory or an enhanced company rate. It is also advisable to train line managers on APL, so they can process any requests/notices.