Alan Johnson: Yes. It would not be right to debar people in that situation from taking paternity leave for each child. Social security legislation has had to deal with polygamous marriages for some time. This is not the first time that such arrangements have been regulated by Government. Perhaps a previous Minister has been asked these questions on other Bills. We would obviously talk closely to the people who dealt with this in the past before we framed any regulations. We would have to ensure that we got it right. In general, the father should be entitled to paternity leave however many children were born, provided that he met the qualifications set out elsewhere in the regulations, particularly the parental qualifications.
Mr. Hammond: Would the Minister find it convenient now to answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), which is relevant to this issue?
Alan Johnson: Yes, that concerns multiple births. There we simply mirror the maternity leave regulations where there is one period of leave. That has been the procedure for a long time under maternity leave. We see no reason to change it for paternity leave.
Mr. Hammond: So a person who is in two simultaneous relationships, where two mothers give birth on the same day to two children is entitled to two periods of leave, but a person in a monogamous relationship whose partner gives birth on the same day
Column Number: 325to twins is entitled to only one period of leave. That does not sound equitable. It seems to send a rather rum signal.
Alan Johnson: One reason for paternity leave is to help the mother. In the first case, there are two mothers, and in the second, only one. That one mother receives one period of maternity leave. The hon. Gentleman raises important points. They are on the record. They need to be considered because there are complications that the regulations must address. Our principles, however, are basically sound.
Rob Marris: To take a more extreme, but not unknown, example, if a mother gives birth to quintuplets, one can envisage that a period of two weeks' paternity leave would be insufficient for the father. I urge the Minister to reconsider the twins clause. By parallel with maternity leave, I can see that there should not necessarily be 10 weeks' paid paternity leave in the case of quintuplets, but most of our constituents would recognise that if they were fortunate enough to father quintuplets, two weeks would be insufficient.
Alan Johnson: I will take those points into account. Generally we want to mirror the arrangements that have served us well for maternity leave for a long time. We do not want to have different arrangements for fathers. In some cases they have to be different, but we want to mirror the maternity arrangements as closely as we can.
The next question was whether we intend to ratchet up the two weeks. We do not. We consulted widely on that, and we have no plans to increase the period. We have been advised by the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge on several occasions to leave some flexibility. The reason for specifying at least two weeks is that it gives some licence for flexibility, although we have no plans to use it at the moment.
Mr. Hammond: Why say anything at all? The power to determine the period by regulation would give the Minister flexibility upwards, but it gives him flexibility downward too. He has chosen to remove his flexibility downwards, which inspires the he has a specific agenda. Has anything been said about the minimum level?
Alan Johnson: We do not intend to reduce it downwards. That reminds me of the argument about the minimum wage. Do we intend to reduce the four weeks of paid holiday? No, once rights are established, we intend them to remain. As to the future, we have no plans for the level to come down, though changes may occur in the unforeseen future.
What about the meaning of remuneration? Subject to consultation, we intend to make the same provision that applies to maternity leave. Thus, sums payable to an employee by way of wages or salary are the definition of remuneration.
Mr. Hammond: That seems a very sensible definition, so why is it not built into the Bill?
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Alan Johnson: I do not know, but I will think about it and get back to the hon. Gentleman, who makes a fair point.
On self-certification and notice, the hon. Gentleman asked whether a standard form would apply. Subject to consultation, we intend to provide not a standard form but a model or guide for people to use. A standard form under the usual bureaucratic arrangements is unnecessary, but we shall offer a model certificate, which we will discuss with employers' groups.
I was asked about the use of regulations on a week's pay. We expect to make some provision for maternity and paternal leave under regulation 22, but a week's leave may not count to determine average pay for the purposes of the clause.
Mr. Hammond: The Minister makes an interesting reference to regulation 22. Does he have a set of draft regulations in front of him, to which the rest of the Committee is not privy?
Alan Johnson: I hope not. As I said in the debate on amendment No. 146, regulation 22 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999 provides for how many weeks of leave are relevant for the purposes of calculating a week's pay for an employee. The amount arrived at in this way is used in calculating redundancy or unfair dismissal compensation and for various other purposes. We intend to mirror that provision in existing legislation. If any draft regulations pertaining to the clause were available, I would be pleased to see them. I hope that I have answered all seven questions.
Mr. Hammond: What of the penalties under new section 80C, 80D and 80E? I asked the Minister whether failure would be met by a financial penalty.
Alan Johnson: I cannot remember at the moment what ideas we have for introducing penalties. I shall think further on the point for a second. The hon. Gentleman is asking what penalties will apply if the provisions are not carried out.
Mr. Hammond: While the Minister is thinking about that, I remind him that I asked about paragraph (f) of proposed new section 80E. What modifications will be required to chapter 2 of part 14 in respect of the calculation of a week's pay?
Alan Johnson: If an employee claims that he is entitled to or takes paternity leave when he is not entitled, any penalty would be a disciplinary matter for his employer, which is a sensible way of addressing the point. On new section 80E, I think that I just provided an answer, which is regulation 22 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999.
Mr. Hammond: I am still a little curious. Do we deduce from the Minister's reply that no offence is committed under new section 80E(c) and (d) by failure to produce evidence, keep records or comply with other procedural requirements? Clearly no offence is committed by failure to give a notice, but is there an offence in failure to act in accordance with a notice
Column Number: 327under paragraph (d)? I had anticipated that the Minister would say that an employer who failed to comply with some procedures would be subject to a penalty. Is that not the case? If we are talking merely about internal disciplinary procedure, why will regulations prescribe the consequences of such failures? Would that not be a matter only for the employer and employee?
Alan Johnson: There will be no offence in respect of leave, although there will be penalties in respect of pay.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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