The Government is shortly due to start consultation on its proposal to provide mothers with the option of transferring up to 6 months of their maternity leave to the father.  

This represents a significant increase to the amount of statutory paternity leave currently available to fathers, which is capped at two weeks. Further, if such leave is taken during the mother's 39 week maternity pay period, on current proposals it may be paid at the same rate as statutory maternity pay.  

Employees will be required to "self certify" details in terms of their eligibility to benefit from the scheme and it is proposed that both employers and HMRC will be able to carry out additional eligibility checks. However it will be necessary for the mother to return to work for this new right to be triggered and the option will only apply to periods of leave arising during the second six months of the child's life.  

The Government intends the new law to be in force by April 2010 although, in order to allow employers time to adjust, it will only apply to parents of children due on or after 3 April 2011.