Biggest Changes to Paternity Leave in 20 Years on the Way

January 16, 2024

By Fflur Jones

In April, the biggest changes to the way paternity leave works in the UK since 2003 will come into force.

Our employment team has summarised what the changes are and what employers need to do to get ready.

What is the current position on paternity leave?

Paid paternity leave was introduced in the UK in 2003. Currently, eligible employees are only able to take one continuous block of paternity leave of one or two weeks, and this must be taken within the first 8 weeks after the child’s birth.

Employees cannot split up their two weeks’ entitlement into different periods of leave, so if they are unable to take two weeks consecutively in the first 8 weeks after their child’s birth or adoption and can only take one week, they will lose the entitlement.

Also, under current regulations, employees who intend to take paternity leave need to give at least 15 weeks’ notice to their employer prior to the expected week of childbirth.

What will change?

Under the new changes, new fathers and partners of people due to give birth (or adopt a child) will be able to take their paternity leave at any time in the first year after the child’s birth or adoption.

In addition, the draft Regulations provide fathers and partners with greater flexibility as they will be able to take the paid leave in two one-week chunks. This change will give eligible employees more freedom to spread the leave rather than being obliged to take it all in one go or lose the second week.

Finally, the notice period for taking paternity leave will be reduced to 28 days (4 weeks). Fathers and partners will have the flexibility to modify their leave dates by giving 28 days’ notice in order to fit around the needs of their families.

When will these changes happen?

The draft Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations were laid before Parliament earlier this month.  The Regulations will apply to parents of children born or adopted on or after 6 April 2024.

What does this mean for employers and what should you do?

As a result of the new changes, many employers’ paternity leave policies will now be out of date and will need to be reviewed and updated. This should be done in time for the changes to come into force on 6 April 2024.

The changes will also coincide with other changes to family-related provisions such as the introduction of carers’ leave, greater redundancy protection for those on maternity leave and changes regarding the flexible working rights. Employers should take the opportunity to review all of their family leave policies to ensure they are up-to-date with all of these changes to the law.

If you require assistance with any of the above, please contact a member of our employment teamFflur Jones, on 02920 829 117 or for a free initial chat to see how we can help you.

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