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The UK’s paternity leave changes: What employers need to know

1 February 2024 4 min read

The UK implements changes to paternity leave legislation

The UK government has published draft regulations that will bring changes to paternity leave legislation – allowing fathers and partners to use their statutory leave entitlement differently to the current regulations.

The Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 will come into force on 8th March 2024, and will only apply to children whose expected week of childbirth or adoption is after 6th April 2024.

What is the current paternity leave legislation in the UK?

Under current legislation, fathers and partners are entitled to two weeks of statutory paternity leave. Employees are required to take their two-week paternity leave in a single block, at some point during the first eight weeks after childbirth or adoption.

At present, employees must notify their employer that they wish to take paternity leave at least 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth or adoption.

UK paternity leave is changing

What are the proposed changes to paternity leave?

Once implemented later this year, the changes will allow fathers, husbands or partners of expectant mothers, adopters and those in a surrogacy arrangement to take their statutory two weeks of paternity leave in one-week blocks on separate occasions, rather than the full two weeks at once.

Employees will be required to only give their employer four weeks notice that they wish to take leave, rather than the current 15-week stipulation.

Leave will no longer have to be taken during the first eight weeks after childbirth of adoption either – and be relaxed instead to any time during the first year.

The final change is a stricter process for declaring entitlement. Currently, employers can ask an employee to sign a declaration to confirm that they are an eligible parent and that they intend to use their leave for legitimate purposes (i.e. to care for the child or support their partner). The new legislation says that employees must declare their eligibility and the legitimate purpose of their leave.

There are no planned changes to the length of statutory leave permitted – which will remain at two weeks.

The changes, while not drastic, are aimed at providing fathers and partners with a greater level of flexibility and more choice over how and when they can use their leave. Despite this, there has long been an argument that the UK’s paternity leave is inadequate – as many point out that two weeks is simply not long enough. The entitlement also remains the lowest in Europe – with the likes of Sweden offering 90 days of paternity leave, for example, in addition to other parental leave rights.

You can read our full guide on the UK’s paternity leave and paternity pay here.

What do the changes mean for employers?

The main impact that employers need to consider is the reduction in notice that employees who wish to take paternity leave will now be required to give, once the changes come into force.

In addition, employers are not able to deny employees their right to take paternity leave on dates of the employee’s choosing. This will continue to be the case following the changes – so even if an employee wants to use their paternity leave at a time that is inconvenient for their employer it cannot be refused, unlike requests for annual leave.

Employers will therefore have to be agile in managing leave requests with four weeks’ notice – ensuring they are able to continue resource planning in addition to handling annual leave requests and sickness absences among other employees. A review of their current systems for managing absence and leave may be necessary, as well as ensuring that people managers are trained and educated about the changes to avoid errors and miscommunication.

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Georgina at edays
Georgina
February 1, 2024

Georgina Mackintosh is an accomplished copywriter and marketing professional with a background that spans several industries. Her writing focuses on HR topics such as employee wellbeing, engagement and experience - as well as absence management best practice, how-to guides and news from the HR sector.