The Government has published draft Regulations setting out changes to the current rules on statutory paternity leave. The proposed changes, which are expected to take effect from 8 March 2024, include amendments to:
- the period within which paternity leave must be taken following a child’s birth or adoption;
- the existing requirement that paternity leave be taken in one single, continuous block; and
- the notice and evidential requirements which an individual must comply with in order to take paternity leave.
What is changing?
Currently, eligible employees (fathers and partners) can take either one week or two consecutive weeks of paid paternity leave in the 56 days after their child’s birth or placement for adoption.
The new draft Regulations will amend the current rules by:
- extending the period within which paternity leave can be taken, so that eligible employees will be able to take their paternity leave at any point in the first year after their child’s birth or placement for adoption;
- providing some flexibility as to how paternity leave can be taken, so that eligible employees will be able to take their leave as two separate one-week blocks if they wish (rather than in a single block of one or two weeks); and
- reducing to 28 days the notice that eligible employees will have to give of their intention to take paternity leave (compared with the current law which requires notice of the intention to take paternity leave to be given at least 15 weeks before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC)). The new provisions will include situations where an employee wishes to vary any leave dates they have notified to their employer previously. This recognises that family circumstances can change on relatively short notice. (For domestic adoption cases, the current requirement to provide notice within seven days of the adoption match being notified to them will remain unchanged).
When will the new rules take effect?
It is anticipated that the new Regulations will come into force on 8 March 2024 and that the changes will apply to birth parents where the EWC begins after 6 April 2024. For adoptive parents, the changes will apply where the expected date of placement for adoption, or the expected date of entry into Great Britain for adoption, is on or after 6 April 2024.
These changes to the statutory paternity leave regime are therefore due to take effect around the same time as other family-friendly legislative changes.
We also expect the Regulations to be accompanied by another statutory instrument which will make changes to statutory paternity pay to allow it to be paid in two separate blocks if that is how an employee chooses to take their paternity leave.