Paternity Leave

Draft regulations have been laid before Parliament, which propose to change the way in which paternity leave is exercised. Whilst the entitlement to paternity leave remains at two weeks, the changes will allow parents greater flexibility to choose when they wish to take the period of leave.

Currently, employees who wish to take paternity leave have a reasonably limited period in which they may do so. The rules currently allow employees to take just one “block” of paternity leave, of either one or two weeks, at any time within the first eight weeks after an adoption or birth.

Under the proposed new rules, employees will instead be allowed to take their leave and pay in two separate blocks of one week, which would not need to be taken over consecutive weeks. These two weeks could also be taken at any time in the first year after the adoption or birth of their child, as opposed to just within the first eight weeks.

The regulations would also propose to vary the notice that employees would need to give to their employer, so that the employee can better suit the needs of their families. In most cases, an employee will be required to give 28 days’ notice before each period of leave, although for domestic adoption cases this period will be shorter and only require 7 days’ notice after the adopter receives notice of being matched with a child. The employee will also then be able to vary any dates that they have given, by giving 28 days’ notice of the variation.

Most employers will have policies in place to deal with paternity leave. Where these policies are more generous than the amended rules, there will be no need for any change. However, if the policy sets out the statutory rules then there will be a need for the policies to be varied, and even if the policy only refers to the statutory rules, employers should familiarise themselves with the amended rules to ensure that they understand any requests being made by employees.

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