More flexible paternity leave to be available to new parents from April

12 February 2024

Faster implementation of the right will bring some benefit to parents but leaves employers little time to update policies.


When the UK Government announced changes to the statutory paternity leave scheme in July 2023, it was envisaged that the right may not be available until later into 2024.  However, the draft Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 ("the Regulations") have been laid before the Parliament and confirm that the more flexible arrangements will apply to parents of children whose expected week of childbirth is after 6 April 2024, or in the case of adoption, parents of children whose expected date of placement for adoption or expected date of entry into Great Britain for adoption, is on or after 6 April 2024.

Changes made by the Regulations

In broad terms, the Regulations make the existing statutory regime more flexible.  This includes:-

  • Allowing employees to choose to take either two non-consecutive weeks’ paternity leave, or a single period of either one week or two weeks;
  • The leave and pay can be taken at any time during the first year after the birth or adoption of the child, a considerable increase on the current period of 56 days after birth or adoption;
  • The period of notice for taking each period of leave and pay is shortened, in most cases, to 28 days.  However, because of the inherently less predictable nature of adoption, the notice period for domestic adoptions remains as within 7 days of the adopter receiving notice of having been matched with a child;
  • Where notice of dates has been given previously, those dates may be varied by giving 28 days' notice of the variation.

From a practical perspective, perhaps the most significant aspects of these changes are the ability to split the leave, and that the leave can be taken over such a long period of time.  The rate of statutory paternity pay is currently £172.48 (this will rise to £184.03 per week from 7 April 2024), which may be considerably lower than a normal week's pay for any particular employee.  Given that the other parent may also be making use of statutory leave and pay, the ability to spread periods of combined lower household income may enable some families to use the second week of paternity leave when previously they may not have been able to do so. 

What should employers be doing?

The changes to paternity leave are only one of the family friendly related changes expected to come into force in April. Changes to the right to request flexible working, the extension of the period of protection from redundancy for pregnant woman and new parents and the introduction of carer's leave being the others.  Employers should be looking at their current policies and procedures covering these areas and updating them to comply with the new laws.  Any training requirements for people managers should also be considered, and a process of communicating these new rights to employees put in place.

Author: Meghan Jenkins


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