Additional Paternity Leave - protecting personal data

Added On: 4th September 2011

Additional Paternity Leave - protecting personal data

The Additional Paternity Leave (APL) scheme allows mothers to transfer some of their statutory maternity leave entitlement and pay to fathers - not necessarily only to biological fathers, since the opportunity to share up to 26 weeks’ leave applies as much to spouses, same-sex partners or fellow adoptive parents as well.

Information swop

Of necessity, employers of the parents’ proposing to share leave need to check with each other to ensure the leave is indeed complementary and agreed by both parents. But this opens up the risk of falling foul of data protection laws, if the employers involved are not careful.

Not taking data protection issues into account can expose an employer to fines or having to provide an undertaking to the Information Commissioner which is published on its website. These sanctions and potential reputational loss can quite easily be avoided by using simple consent forms.

Written notification

The regulations require the employee requesting paternity leave to submit to their employer:

  • a written “leave notice” which includes the leave dates requested
  • a signed “employee declaration” stating that:
- the purpose of the paternity leave will be to care for the child;
- they are the child’s father or married to, or the partner or civil partner of, the child’s mother; and
- they have, or expect to have, the main responsibility (apart from the mother) for bringing up the child.
  • a written declaration from the child’s mother stating:
- her name, address and NI number;
- the date on which she intends to return to work;
- that the employee is the child’s father or her spouse, partner or civil partner;
- that to her knowledge the employee is the only person exercising the entitlement under the APL regulations in respect of the child; and
- that she consents to the employer processing the information she has provided in the declaration.

Employers can also ask fathers to provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate and the name and address of the mother’s employer.

Father’s employer

Although the regulations make no provision for this, it makes sense for a ‘father’s’employer to check with the mother’s workplace that she is indeed their employee, has been on maternity leave, how long her leave was, and that she has returned to work, before approving the APL of the father or partner. The father’s employer can make it a term of their paternity policy that an employee wishing to take paternity leave provides written authorisation from the mother allowing it to contact her employer. The father’s employer could then develop a standard consent form seeking this information for the mother to sign. The form should specify clearly the purposes for which this information will be used.

Mother’s employer

Organisations receiving a request for information from a father’s employer should let their employee - the mother - know they have received the request and should ask her permission to provide the information to the father’s employer. If she refuses permission, the information should not be disclosed.

It makes sense for employers to amend their maternity policies to specify how they will deal with requests from the father’s employer, so that mothers are aware they may be contacted.