UK: Changes to Paternity Leave from March 2024

The UK Government has laid draft sets of Regulations before Parliament which are due to come into force on March 8, 2024, and will make changes to the current statutory paternity leave scheme.

These changes were anticipated, following the Government’s Response to the consultation that it commenced in July 2019 about high-level options for reforming parental leave with a view to achieving greater equality in parenting and at work.

A reminder of statutory paternity leave and pay

Employees are currently able to take either one week or two consecutive weeks of statutory paternity leave within 56 days (8 weeks) of birth, provided they meet the eligibility criteria, evidence and notice requirements. The eligibility criteria for statutory paternity pay largely mirrors that for statutory paternity leave save that an employee must also have earnings not less than the lower earnings limit.

There are similar rules in adoption and surrogacy cases.

What is changing?

Well, not a lot substantively. Here’s a brief look at what is changing:


Current Position

New Position

Length of paternity leave

To be taken as a single period of continuous leave only or either one week or two weeks in length

Now also able to choose to split leave into two separate one-week periods if desired

But must still be taken in whole weeks

When paternity leave can be taken

Leave to be taken within first eight weeks

Leave to be taken at any time in the first year

Notice(s) required to take paternity leave

Notice of entitlement and leave dates to be given by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (“EWC”)

28 days’ notice required of the leave dates (in birth cases)

BUT – employees still need to give notice of entitlement by the end of the 15th week before the EWC

Notice required to vary paternity leave

28 days’ notice to vary start date

28 days’ notice required to vary any dates specified for leave

Note that for adoption cases the notice period for leave will remain within seven days of the adopter having received notice of having been matched with a child.

Why have the changes been made?

The decision to allow fathers and partners to take the two-week paid entitlement in two separate blocks of one week is intended to increase flexibility, as is the ability to take this leave at any time in the first year following childbirth or adoption, rather than just the first eight weeks.

The requirement to give notice of the intended leave dates for birth cases has also been significantly reduced to 28 days, which is intended to be more proportionate to the amount of time taken off work. However, under the new regime employees who wish to take paternity leave will still need to notify their employer of their entitlement to paternity leave 15 weeks before the EWC.

These changes will apply in relation to children whose expected week of childbirth begins after April 6, 2024. In adoption cases, the changes will apply where the child’s expected date of placement is on or after April 6, 2024.

Employers will need to update their paternity leave policies to reflect these changes and inform HR and employees of their new rights.

The draft Regulations can be found here and here

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.