Fri 11 Aug 2023

Paternity leave to become more flexible

Fathers/partners will have greater opportunity to make use of paternity leave in a way that suits them and their families.  

In 2019 a consultation took place looking at a number of potential reforms to family related pay and leave. The UK Government's recent response to the consultation confirms that although no changes are to be made to the majority of family-related leave, some changes are to be made to paternity leave and pay.

Currently paternity leave and pay can be used by eligible employees in either one whole week or two consecutive weeks of leave within the first 56 days of a child's birth or placement for adoption. To be eligible for leave an employee must meet continuity of service requirements (being continuously employed for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 15th week before the baby is due), be in one of the specified relationships, and have (or expect to have) a sufficient degree of responsibility for the child's upbringing. In addition, the employee must not have already taken shared parental leave in respect of the same child (so they should use their paternity leave entitlement prior to taking shared parental leave) and must give the employer at least 15 weeks' notice before the expected week of birth or, in the case of adoption, placement. 

The eligibility requirements for statutory paternity pay will remain in place and employees will continue to be required to meet continuity of service requirements and minimum earnings tests. The changes to be made will:-

(1) allow eligible employees to take the two-week entitlement in two separate blocks of one week, rather than choosing between taking either one week or two consecutive weeks;

(2) allow eligible employees to take the leave any time during the first 12 months following birth or adoption placement; and

(3) allow eligible employees to give only 4 weeks' notice of each period of leave they intend to take, but they must still give their employers notice of their entitlement 15 weeks prior to the birth or placement. 

As with many new employment rights, the timescale for implementation of these changes is not confirmed. Rather the secondary legislation required will be "introduced in due course". In the meantime, employers and people professionals should consider whether any policies referencing this leave will require to be amended when the changes are made, and how they can best facilitate the shorter notice periods that will be required in the future.

It is also worth noting that despite acknowledging that respondents to the consultation find the separate shared parental leave and pay scheme confusing and that simplification of that scheme would be welcomed, no changes are to be made to it. The response to the consultation refers parents and employers to a tool that was launched in 2021.  The tool, which can be accessed from Shared Parental Leave and Pay: Eligibility for birth parents enables parents and employers to check eligibility and plan when leave will be taken.

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