The United Kingdom has published plans on proposed changes to paternity leave. These extend the period over which leave can be taken and streamline the administration process.

The UK’s statutory paternity leave regime currently allows eligible employees to take two weeks of leave (at the statutory rate at the time, currently £172.48 per week) in the first 56 days after birth or adoption. The proposals, announced in the UK Government’s Good Work Plan, provide employees more flexibility about how and when they take their paternity leave. Should the plans come into force, eligible employees will be able to take paternity leave in two separate blocks of one week at any point in the first year, spreading out the period over which leave can be taken.

There will also be changes to simplify the administration process. At the moment, employees must inform their employer of their intended leave dates 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. To reduce this burden, the UK Government’s proposals reduce the period of notice required from employees to 28 days before the intended start date(s) of paternity leave.

No changes are proposed to statutory paternity pay or the eligibility requirements for paternity leave.

The Good Work Plan appears to acknowledge that the proposals will enable more employees to take paternity leave whilst remaining affordable. There is a long way to go before these proposals become law; the legislative process has not yet started, and these things can take time if it is not a priority area.

In the meantime, there have been developments in relation to other family friendly law reforms – over the summer, changes that have been in the pipeline for several years have now completed their passage through the process and passed as Acts, including: amendments to flexible working laws (read more on our blog); adjustments to the laws applicable to expectant and new mothers facing potential redundancy; and new statutory rights for carers and parents of neo-natal babies. These changes do not take immediate effect – we will need regulations on the detail so do not expect the changes to take effect until next year.

With a general election predicted in 2024, it remains to be seen whether the changes outlined will be given priority. We will keep you abreast of developments through our blog.