Paternity Leave rules set to become more flexible

  • Employment Law
Changes to paternity leave
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

The Government has announced that they plan to change the paternity leave rules to make it more flexible for employees, but what does this mean for employers?

Currently, eligible employees are those who have been employed for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, are the father of the child, or the spouse, civil partner, or partner of the child’s mother. They must also have, or expect to have, responsibility for the upbringing of the child. Paternity leave can, therefore, be taken by both male and female employees, as well as a co-adopter.

Paternity leave enables the eligible employee to take either one week, or two weeks in a block. It cannot be taken in two separate single week blocks. An employee must also take their paternity leave within 56 days of the child’s birth or in adoption cases, of the child being placed with the employee. Notice of when the employee intends to take the paternity leave, must be given in or before the 15th week before the expected week of the child’s birth or placement.

There are three proposed changes:

1.       To allow employees to take paternity leave in two separate blocks of one week. This will allow employees to take one week and then take the other week later.

2.       To take paternity leave at any point within one year, rather than 56 days, of the birth or adoption.

3.       Employees to give their notice of entitlement no later than 15 weeks before the birth and then give 28 days’ notice before the dates that they intend to take each period of leave.

Whilst these changes will allow employees more flexibility, they could be more disruptive for employers. An employer may find it more difficult to find cover for two periods of leave rather than one block, particularly as an employee would only have to give 28 days’ notice at any point within one year of the birth or adoption. Although if an employee takes the leave at a quieter time of the year because they have a greater timeframe to work with this will benefit the business. It is up to the employee when they take it, however, so there is no requirement for them to factor this into their decision of when to take their paternity leave.  

On a practical level, employers will need to consider what measures they may need to put in place to ensure that they keep track of employee entitlement and leave notifications given that this will be over a much longer timeframe.

Don’t make any changes yet though, it may be some time until we see any amendments to the legislation. The Government must change existing regulations and they have said that this will happen “in due course”.  

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