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Daddy Day Care; Important changes to paternity leave rules coming in April

January 23, 2024

I cannot quite believe that is has been over 6 years since I took my first ever stint of paternity leave.  Looking back, it was all a bit of a blur. My son was in the neonatal intensive care unit for what felt like an eternity. I think it was about two weeks or so before we, luckily, got him home. I was of course very fortunate to have a sympathetic and understanding employer who supported me and allowed me to take the leave whenever I thought best. All sorts of worries were racing through my mind… Should I take the leave now while he is in hospital? How much use can I be at this time?  Should I wait and take it later? As an employment lawyer I knew that it had to be taken within the first 8 weeks from birth.

The existing statutory scheme for paternity leave allows expectant fathers (or partners) to take up to 2 weeks’ paternity leave. The leave must be taken within the first 8 weeks following childbirth (or adoption). The leave must also be taken in a block of complete weeks (either one or two). The sting in the tail for the employee is that if a father/partner opts to take a block of one week, the second week is lost. It is a very rigid system. The existing scheme also imposes a requirement for the expectant father/partner to give the employer 15 weeks’ notice of their intended paternity leave dates. That would have been a problem for me in my personal scenario. 

Draft regulations have been passed before Parliament which will introduce some minor but important changes to the paternity leave system. The Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 are set to become law in March 2024 and will apply to babies whose expected week of birth (or matching for adoption) is after 6 April 2024. The key changes which will result are as follows:-

• Paternity leave can be taken at any time in the year which follows childbirth or adoption (rather than just the first 8 weeks).

• The leave may be taken in separate blocks of singular weeks (meaning that the second week is no longer lost for those who book a single week).

• The notice period for each block (week) of leave is shortened to 28 days. A much more family friendly duration. 

• There is a further modification allowing for the original leave date given to be modified by the father/partner on giving 28 days’ notice of variation to the employer. 

These changes will be welcomed by families allowing for greater flexibility for the fathers and partners to pick and chose when they take their leave. This follows further recent developments in the sphere of “family friendly rights” as covered my colleague Stephen Connolly here

A further development where employers will require to ensure that they are ahead of the curve and that their internal processes are aligned with the new rules. If you have any questions about the new regime of any other family friendly developments, please contact a member of our Employment Team across Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

*Please note that the title of this blog reflects the writer’s personal experience of the paternity leave system and is to not be interpreted as expressing an exclusionary view of the other classes of individual who also derive rights under this scheme.

The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

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