Paternity leave has not been forgotten in the swathe of family related legislative changes taking effect in April 2024. However, anyone hoping for significant changes will be disappointed. The changes are limited to improving flexibility for eligible employees wanting to take the existing right to two weeks of statutory paternity leave. There is no increase in the leave entitlement, or to the level of paternity pay.

The changes introduce the following flexibility:

  1. Allowing eligible employees to take their two weeks of statutory paternity leave in non-consecutive weeks (at present it must be taken in a block of one or two weeks).
  2. Allowing leave to be taken within the first 52 weeks after birth or adoption, rather than the first 56 days. However, employees wanting to also take shared parental leave will need to take their paternity leave early, as paternity leave cannot be taken after shared parental leave.
  3. Reducing the period of notice employees need to give their employer of their intention to take paternity leave to 28 days prior to each period of leave (reduced from 15 weeks before the baby is expected). There is no change to domestic adoption notice requirements which remain at 7 days.
  4. Simplifying the provisions for varying or cancelling statutory paternity leave by doing so on 28 days’ notice of the earlier of the original or new date.

These changes apply to eligible employees whose babies have an expected week of childbirth after 6 April 2024 or whose placement for adoption (or arrival in Great Britain if an overseas adoption) is on or after 6 April 2024.

In preparation for the changes applying from April 2024, employers should update their paternity leave policies and any template documents to reflect the changes.

While many employers enhance paternity leave over the statutory minimum there may nevertheless need to be changes to when the leave can be taken, or notice requirements, to ensure the policy is clear about how arrangements dovetail with the new statutory regime.

Managers should be informed and trained on the changes so that they are aware that they may get shorter notice of leave being taken. However, the enhanced flexibility about when and how statutory paternity leave is taken may also to be a benefit to employers.