Paternity Leave

The Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 (“the Regulations”), which make changes to how statutory entitlement to paternity leave can be exercised, are set to come into force on 8 March 2024.

It is important to note that these changes will only apply to children whose expected week of childbirth is after 6 April 2024 or whose expected date of placement for adoption or expected date of entry into Great Britain for adoption is on or after 6 April 2024.

Therefore, with effect from 6 April 2024:

  1. Instead of only being entitled to take paternity leave as a single period of one or two weeks, fathers and partners will now be entitled to take paternity leave and pay as two non-consecutive periods of leave of one week each.
  2. Fathers and partners will be allowed to take their leave and pay at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of their child, rather than only within the first eight weeks after adoption or birth.
  3. With the exception of domestic adoption cases, the period of notice a father or partner is required to give their employer for each period of paternity leave and pay will be shortened to 28 days’ notice. For domestic adoption cases, the notice period for leave remains within seven days of the adopter having received notice of being matched with a child. The notice of entitlement to paternity leave remains unaltered.
  4. A father or partner who has given an initial notice will be allowed to vary any dates given if they provide their employer with 28 days’ notice of the variation.

Given the flexibility introduced by the Regulations, employers will need to take extra care to ensure that paternity leave entitlements are being taken and compensated correctly.

In addition, from 6 April 2024, the following changes to other family friendly rights will also come into effect.

Maternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Leave

The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 (“MASL Regulations”) extend the period of time during which an employer is required to offer an employee a suitable alternative vacancy in a redundancy situation. The extended protected period is as follows:

Pregnancy

The protected period will begin once the employee notifies their employer that they are pregnant and will end either on the day that statutory maternity leave starts or two weeks after the end of the pregnancy (if they are not entitled to statutory maternity leave).

Maternity Leave

The protected period begins on the last day of the employee’s statutory maternity leave period and ends 18 months after the expected week of childbirth or, where the employee has informed the employer of the actual date of childbirth, the protected period will end 18 months after that date.

Adoption Leave

The protected period begins the day after the employee’s statutory adoption leave finishes and ends 18 months after the child’s placement or the child’s entry into Great Britain.

Shared Parental Leave

For those taking six or more consecutive weeks of shared parental leave but who have not taken maternity or adoption leave, the additional protected period starts after the six consecutive weeks and ends 18 months after the date of the child’s birth or placement (or date they enter Great Britain).

Carers Leave

Following the implementation of the Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024, from 6 April 2024, employees who have a dependant with long-term care needs will be entitled to a period of unpaid carer’s leave. The minimum period of carer’s leave that can be requested is half a working day and the maximum period that can be requested is one continuous week in any one year.

Employees are not required to take carer’s leave on consecutive days and the Regulations set down rules for calculating the length of a week’s leave for the purposes of carer’s leave, along with the notice requirements an employee needs to give to their employer. The Regulations also contain additional rules regarding the employer’s ability to postpone carer’s leave.

Flexible Working

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 and Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023, will introduce a number of procedural changes to the right to request flexible working and remove the requirement for an employee to have at least 26 continuous weeks’ service before being eligible to submit a flexible working request. The procedural changes include: employees will be entitled to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period; employees will no longer be required to suggest how an employer might deal with any negative effects of granting the request; the employer’s timeframe to respond to a flexible working request will be reduced from 3 months to 2 months; and the employer will be required to consult with an employee if it is planning to reject the request.

What should employers do?

Employers will need to ensure that existing policies on paternity leave, maternity leave, adoption leave, shared parental leave, redundancy, and flexible working are updated to reflect these legislative changes. Employers may also want to introduce a Carer’s Leave Policy outlining the new statutory entitlements. Employees should be informed of these changes and HR departments should be given appropriate training.

Written By

Published: 26th February 2024
Area: Corporate & Commercial

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