Understanding your right to change the way you work after time off to adapt to parenthood
Published 19 September 2023
Half of new fathers and partners requesting flexible working after paternity leave are being denied it by employers according to a study.
It does mean many new mothers are having to carry the caring burden alone, and being denied invaluable support at what is often a challenging, demanding and extremely difficult time.
Paternity leave allows new fathers or the partners of pregnant women to opt to take time away from the workplace to help to care for their child, or support their partner.
If you are eligible, you are entitled to statutory paternity pay and up to two weeks off, regardless of your gender, after the birth or adoption of a child.
You will be paid either 90 per cent of your earnings or the standard rate, whichever is lower. The current statutory weekly rate of Paternity Pay is £172.48 [1 cited 19.9.23]
There has been a lot of publicity in recent years around shared parental leave, which was introduced in the Children and Families Act 2014, and it should not be confused with paternity leave [2 cited 19.9.23] . The two are different.
- Paternity leave
Allows eligible fathers and partners to take up to two weeks of paid time off work.
It can only be taken as a whole week or two consecutive weeks, and it must be taken within 56 days of the birth or adoption of the child.
- Shared parental leave
Allows eligible parents who are sharing responsibility for a child to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay in the first year after the birth or adoption of a child.
Shared parental leave can be taken in blocks separated by periods of work, or all in one go.
As well as paternity leave, you may be entitled to shared parental leave, which allows you to divide the mother’s leave between both parents.
Having a child is a major life event, which requires a lot of adjustment and adaptation.
So, it is understandable if after a short period of paternity leave you want to change your routine, schedule, habits and lifestyle to enable you to accommodate the needs of a new family member.
Once your shared parental leave is finished, you can make a flexible working request [3 cited 19.9.23].
You can ask your employer to allow you to alter the way in which you perform your duties, so that you can do so in a way that best suits you and enables you to meet any childcare commitments
There are numerous reasons why a new father or partner may want to make a flexible working request after parental leave.
For example, to share the childcare responsibilities and spend more quality time with the new addition to the family, or to get a much better work life balance and reduce stress.
The reasons will vary depending on personal circumstances and preferences, as well as the culture and policies of any workplace.
Flexible working can be a valuable option for fathers and partners wanting to play a more active role in family life.
But research suggests a high number of those wishing to do so are being denied the opportunity and being left disappointed.
Reports of a recently published study said half of new fathers and partners eligible for paternity leave are having their requests for flexible working denied by employers [4 cited 19.9.23]
The research is said to have found fathers and partners on lower incomes were even less likely to have their flexible working requests accepted.
Researchers are reported to have found around two-thirds of fathers and partners entitled to paternity leave with household incomes below £40,000 had their requests for flexible working partially or totally rejected – in comparison to around half of those making over £40,000.
A flexible working request allows you to ask your employer to allow you to change the way in which you work in order to suit your needs
You have a legal right to make a flexible working request if you have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks or more and have not made another request in the previous 12 months.
What you can ask for in a flexible working request to allow you to meet childcare commitments
In a request you can ask to change your working hours, the times you work or work location. It allows you to ask to be allowed to work in a more flexible way and some of the things you can ask for are:
- To cut your hours and work part-time, which could mean changing the number of days you work each week or hours you work every day.
- Adjusting the times that you start and finish work e.g. you could start earlier and finish earlier, or start later and finish later, depending on your childcare needs.
- Flexitime allows parents and carers to ask for flexibility with start and finish times[5 cited 19.9.23].You choose when you start and end work (within agreed limits) but work certain ‘core hours’, for example 10am to 4pm every day. It would then be up to you to choose when you work (with the permission of your employer), provided that the total hours add up to the amount required by your contract.
- Request compressed hours, which means working your full-time hours over fewer days in the week e.g. you could work 10 hours a day for four days rather than 8 hours a day for five days.
- Ask to work from home, which can allow you to reduce your commuting time and costs and enable you to be more flexible with your childcare arrangements. Or you can ask to work from home on certain days.
- Job sharing which means splitting the duties and responsibilities of one full-time role between two people who work part-time [6 cited 19.9.23]. It can allow you to share the workload and the childcare responsibilities with another person who has similar skills and experience.
These are some of the most popular types of flexible working options that new fathers and partners will usually ask for.
There may be alternative options based on your role and employer’s flexible working policy, which you should check before submitting a request.
Is it automatically unfair if my employer rejects my request for flexible working after I have taken paternity leave?
Your employer must consider your flexible working request in a ‘reasonable manner’ [7 cited 19.9.23]
It can fairly reject your application if there are legitimate grounds to do so. The reason for such a decision should be made clear to you.
Employers can reject an application for any of the following reasons:
- extra costs that will damage the business
- the work cannot be reorganised among other staff
- people cannot be recruited to do the work
- flexible working will affect quality and performance
- the business will not be able to meet customer demand
- there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
- the business is planning changes to the workforce
If you are unhappy with a decision to reject your flexible working request you should be allowed to appeal.
If you are not made aware that you can appeal, you should write to your employer and request that you are allowed to do so.
You do not have a statutory right to appeal and if your employer refuses to allow you to do so, you should seek expert advice and contact our Employee Support Centre for help.