Handling situations where an employee is not entitled to paternity leave but has a partner expecting a baby requires sensitivity and understanding. While the employee may not have a legal entitlement to take time off, offering support and flexibility can foster a positive work environment and demonstrate your commitment to work-life balance. Below are some options for how to navigate such situations and support employees without paternity leave entitlement.
Understand the legal framework
The most common reason you may have an employee in this situation is that they are relatively new and have not yet met the qualifying service requirement for paternity leave. To be entitled to paternity leave, your team member needs to have worked for you continuously for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due (or by the ‘matching’ week if they are adopting). Clearly if you have a new starter they may not meet this requirement, but they are still likely to be keen to take some time off.
You could give them paternity leave anyway
One very straightforward option is simply to ignore the fact they haven’t met the qualifying requirements and give them paternity leave anyway. Obviously you’d want to consider the precedent here, but it is an option. As the employee doesn’t meet the statutory requirements, this does mean you wouldn’t be able to claim paternity pay back from HMRC as you normally would, but there’s nothing stopping you making equivalent payments yourself if you wish.
Offer unpaid leave
Consider offering the employee the option to take unpaid leave to support their partner during the childbirth period. Either ‘matching’ the two week paternity leave their longer-serving colleagues would be entitled to, or another arrangement to suit the circumstances.
Encourage the use of annual leave or time off in lieu
If feasible, suggest the use of annual leave or time off in lieu as a way for the employee to spend time with their partner and newborn. This option allows the employee to have dedicated time without affecting their regular work hours or their pay. Encourage the employee to plan their leave in advance as far as possible to ensure smooth workflow management within the business.
Explore flexible working arrangements
Even if an employee does not have paternity leave entitlement, and you cannot facilitate a chunk of time off, you can still explore flexible working arrangements that can accommodate their needs during this important time. This might include adjusting work hours, allowing remote work, or offering a short-term flexible schedule, to give them time with the baby and their partner without having to take unpaid leave or use up holiday entitlement.
Document the arrangements
Ensure clear and accurate documentation of any arrangements made, including discussions, agreements, and special considerations provided to the employee. This documentation protects both parties and helps avoid misunderstandings in the future.
If you’re approaching this for the first time and have come to a decision on how you’d prefer to support these employees, consider putting that in your paternity leave policy if you have one, so that others in the same situation in future can clearly see how they will be supported.
While employees without paternity leave entitlement may face challenges in balancing work and family responsibilities, you do have the opportunity to provide support and flexibility.
By understanding the legal framework, initiating open conversations, and exploring alternative arrangements, you can demonstrate empathy and create a positive work environment. Supporting employees during significant life events strengthens employee loyalty (of those you are supporting and also those who are witnessing it!) and can therefore boost performance, enhance retention and contribute to the overall success of your business.
If you need further advice on how to support employees who are not entitled to paternity leave, do get in touch.