Changes to paternity leave from March 2024
In the UK, the current Regulations governing paternity leave rights are tremendously outdated. Some of the current provisions include:
- Eligible employed fathers can take one or two consecutive weeks of paid paternity leave within the first eight weeks following the birth of their child or adoption placement.
- The leave can only be taken in one block of one or two weeks meaning that whilst a father or partner is entitled up to two weeks of leave, if they only take one week, they cannot take the other week on a separate occasion.
It is no wonder that the UK is known to have one of the least generous paternity leave entitlements in Europe. Compare this to countries such as Spain, where new fathers can undertake 16 weeks’ fully paid paternity leave.
There is some good news on the way with changes to paternity leave coming to the UK in March 2024. the draft Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 are due to come into force to make the following changes:
- To allow fathers and partners to take their leave as two one-week, non-consecutive blocks;
- To allow fathers and partners to take their leave at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of their child (rather than only within the first eight weeks after birth or adoption)
- To shorten, in most cases, the notice period required for each period of leave to four weeks (note: for domestic adoption cases the notice period for leave will remain the same); and;
- A father or partner who has given an initial notice may vary any dates requested if they give 28 days’ notice of the variation.
These are welcome changes but it’s not nearly enough.
Fathers have very little time to bond with their new baby. There are many people who do not even qualify for paternity leave at all, not to mention the negative impact this has on new mothers who often face the extra responsibilities and stress of a newborn without the help of their partners.
The UK must do more to protect new parents instead of upholding policies that, in my view, lean into gender stereotypes that women are naturally best placed to provide the nurture and care a child needs whilst fathers are incapable of providing the same.