Publish date

30 January 2024

What can employers expect from new paternity leave regulations?

Parents can expect greater flexibility in deciding the terms and timings of their statutory paternity leave as a result of the legislation applying to children with an expected week of childbirth is after 6 April 2024.  Employers should ensure that they are clued up on what the new regulations will mean for them.

Current paternity leave

Currently new fathers and partners can request and take up to two weeks’ statutory paternity leave when their child is born.

There is little flexibility surrounding these rules, with all leave required to be taken in one block of either one or two consecutive weeks. New fathers are also required to take paternity leave in the first eight weeks of their child’s life only. Furthermore, in order to qualify for statutory paternity leave, fathers need to have six months continuous service with their employer.

New fathers are also required to give notice of the timing of their leave, being 15 weeks before the birth of their child to their employer.

New regulations for paternity leave

For children with an expected week of childbirth after 6 April 2024, new fathers can adopt a far more flexible approach to taking statutory paternity leave, by:

  • Taking statutory paternity leave at any stage during the first year of their child’s life
  • Splitting up their two week leave entitlement into blocks (e.g. one week on the birth of the child and one week when the child is six months old)
  • Giving only 28 days’ notice of the timing of their leave (although notice of leave entitlement must still be provided to employers 15 weeks’ before the birth of the child).

The new regulations do have stricter requirements on declaring entitlement to statutory paternity leave. New fathers must provide their employer with a declaration that they are an eligible parent, including details of the legitimate purpose for their leave (such as helping to care for the child and support their partner). Under the current rules this is an option for employers, but is not an all-out requirement.

Whilst some employers may offer new fathers time off on full pay, this is not required and is not changing.  So employers can continue to pay paternity pay at the rate of statutory paternity leave, being £172.48 per week from 1 April 2024.

Key takeaways

The new regulations seek to offer greater flexibility to new fathers, in respect of when and how they can take statutory paternity leave.

This wider flexibility may pose some concern for employers, as employers have no right to challenge requests for leave or request that this leave is taken at a different time. Although this position exists under the current rules, the period in which new fathers can take leave has greatly increased, from just eight weeks to a full 12 months.

Employers should consider managing this increased flexibility by either putting in place or updating paternity leave policies. Such policies should set out clearly the procedure for requesting paternity leave, as well as the information that new fathers will need to provide.

If you have any questions about paternity leave, or any other employment law issue, please do contact a member of the Employment team.

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