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Law guide

Ordinary paternity leave - contractual issues

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Your contract of employment continues throughout statutory ordinary paternity leave (OPL) unless either you or your employer expressly ends it or it expires.

Terms and conditions during OPL

During OPL an employee has a statutory right to continue to benefit from all the terms and conditions of employment which would have applied to them had they been at work, except for the terms relating to wages or salary.

Examples of contractual terms and conditions that continue to apply during OPL include:

  • Gym membership
  • Participation in share schemes
  • Reimbursement of professional subscriptions
  • The use of a company car or mobile phone (unless provided for business use only)

Continuous employment and ordinary paternity leave

OPL counts towards an employee's period of continuous employment for the purposes of entitlement to other statutory employment rights, e.g. the right to a redundancy payment.

It also counts towards assessing seniority and length-of-service payments, such as pay increments.

Accrual of annual leave

An employee continues to accrue statutory and any contractual annual leave entitlement throughout OPL.

An employee may not take annual leave during ordinary paternity leave but may take it immediately before or after it.

Contributions to an occupational pension scheme (OPS)

For the purpose of pension rights, an employer should maintain its contribution to an OPS whilst an employee is taking OPL. The employee must continue to pay his pension contributions if the pension scheme rules require him to do so. An employee will not have to make any contributions towards their pension during any period in which he is not receiving any statutory ordinary paternity pay. However, he may still make voluntary contributions if the pension scheme rules allow him/her to do so.

Returning to work from ordinary paternity leave

You will have the right return to a job with the same seniority, pension rights and similar rights. You will also have the right to return to a job with the same terms and conditions (including remuneration) that are as favourable as they would have been if you had not gone on leave.

Following ordinary paternity leave, you will be entitled to return to the same job that you had before taking paternity leave if you:

  • only took OPL; or
  • took no more than 4 weeks of parental leave; or
  • (for employees in England, Wales and Scotland) took OPL after another period of statutory leave (except parental leave) and the total leave taken was 26 weeks or less;
  • (for employees in Northern Ireland) took 2 or more consecutive periods of any other statutory leave that results in you taking a total period of statutory leave for your child of more than 4 weeks.

You still have a right to return to the same job if you return to work after having taken:

  • more than 4 weeks of parental leave; or
  • a period of OPL or parental leave that does not comply with the above-mentioned right to return to the same job.

However, if it isn't reasonably possible for your employer to give it back to you, you'll have the right to return to another job that is both suitable and appropriate for you to do. A suitable and appropriate alternative job must be as close as possible to the previous role that you held. You must be given the same remuneration, seniority, status and the same terms and conditions of employment as if you had not been absent.

You'll also entitled to benefit from any general improvements to the rate of pay or other terms and conditions introduced while you were away.

An employee returning to work may make a request to work flexibly, e.g. to work from home or do part-time hours.