Concept for - Paternity Leave - what's new?

New Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 came into force on 8 March 2024. This new legislation brings greater flexibility for those seeking to take paternity leave.

When will these changes apply?

In practical terms, the Regulations themselves apply where the expected week of childbirth is on or after 6 April 2024 and where a placement for adoption is on or after 6 April 2024.

What are the key paternity leave changes to be aware of?

  1. Leave Structure: An employee will now be able to choose to take either a single period of leave of either one week or two weeks (previous rights), or two non-consecutive week-long periods of leave (new, additional rights from 6 April 2024). Employees who have more than one child receive exactly the same amount of leave as an employee who has one child, for example, if they have twins.
  2. Time Limit for using leave by: The previous position was for paternity leave to be taken within 56 days of the birth (or due date if the baby is early) or adoption placement. The period for paternity leave to be taken has now been extended to 52 weeks of the birth (or due date if the baby is early) or adoption placement. So, paternity leave can be taken within 52 weeks of birth or adoption as opposed to only within the first eight weeks after a child’s adoption or birth.
  3. Notice and evidential requirements: An employee must give notice of their entitlement to take paternity leave and a written declaration that they satisfy the required conditions to take paternity leave.
  4. Notice period for leave periods: Whilst notice of entitlement to paternity leave must be given on or before 15 weeks prior to the expected week of the child’s birth, eligible employees will only need to provide at least 28 days’ notice of their intended leave date prior to each leave period.
  5. Notice period to vary or cancel planned leave: If an eligible employee seeks to vary or cancel their intended period of paternity leave, they will need to provide their employer with at least 28 days’ notice.

Paternity leave – looking ahead…

Employees who have an expected week of childbirth on or after 6 April 2024 or whose placement for adoption is on or after 6 April 2024 will need to keep in mind these new requirements. If an employee has already provided information, served notice or provided a declaration under the previous statutory provisions before 8 March 2024 in order to take paternity leave, they will be deemed to be compliant with the current statutory requirements. As for the structure and timeframe for taking paternity leave, there will be more options available to employees seeking to take paternity leave. See here for forms that employees complete when claiming statutory paternity leave and statutory paternity pay.

Employers will need to implement these new paternity rights in practice. This may include updating a staff handbook, written employee policies, procedures and contracts, as well as openly communicating with staff to ensure they are aware of these changes. In particular, it is important that staff who are processing the paternity leave notices and declarations are aware of the updated timeframes. See here for guidance for employers on paternity leave rights.

Employers should bear in mind that employees who are dismissed or treated to their detriment for taking paternity leave may be able to bring potential claims including a claim for automatically unfair dismissal.

The overall impact of the 2024 changes is that it enables further flexibility for employees when planning what paternity leave approach works best for their circumstances.

For further information on leave rights for employees and workers, please see our article here.