EUROPEAN CASE MAY BOOST PATERNITY RIGHTS

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling may impact on UK additional paternity leave rules which come into force for babies due from 3 April 2011 onwards.

The ECJ has issued a ruling in the case of Roca Alvarez v Sesa Start Espana ETT SA concerned a Spanish scheme which allowed parents to take time off work to look after a child but which was applied differently to women and men. A woman who was employed qualified for the time off, but employed fathers were only entitled to the leave if the mother of the child was also an employee. The ECJ ruling found that this resulted in sex discrimination. How may this affect us in the UK? Well, the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010 come into force for babies due on or after 3 April 2011. These regulations allow fathers to take up to six months additional paternity leave (APL), where the mother of the child is returning to work and not taking the last six months of her maternity leave entitlement. This ruling from the ECJ suggests that fathers taking the APL should be entitled to the same rights as women taking leave. This may affect employers who offer extra benefits to women on maternity leave, in excess of their statutory maternity pay entitlement, as fathers on APL should also be offered these additional benefits to avoid any possibility of sex discrimination. The Additional Paternity Leave Regulations were introduced by the previous Labour government. The Coalition government has advised that they will remain in force as an interim measure, whilst they consult on a new system of parental leave.