Changes to Paternity and Maternity Leave entitlements 2024
- Is your business ready?

From 6th April 2024, changes were implemented to Paternity Leave entitlements in England, Scotland and Wales.

In this article, Arbor Law’s Fiona Morgan addresses these changes to help employers comply with the new rules, along with some of the most common misconceptions about paternity leave.

What are the changes to Paternity Leave entitlements in 2024? 

1. Employees remain entitled to two weeks’ statutory Paternity Leave in total.  However, employees can now take their two-week paternity leave entitlement in two separate, one-week blocks (the previous requirement was that employees could only take one block of either one week or two consecutive weeks).

2. Employees are now able to take paternity leave at any time in the 52 weeks after birth or placement for adoption (the previous requirement was that employees must take leave in the 56 days following birth or placement for adoption).

3. Employees only need to give 28 days’ notice of their intention to take paternity leave (this is reduced from the previous requirement that notice be given 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth (“EWC”) or expected date of placement for adoption).

The above changes do not affect more generous paternity leave entitlements that employers may choose to give.

Some commentators say that these changes do not nearly go far enough and, in particular, that statutory paternity leave should be increased significantly from 2 weeks, but that is a debate for another day!

To whom do the 2024 Paternity Leave entitlements changes apply?

These changes only apply in respect of parents and their partners of children whose EWC (or expected placement for adoption) is expected to be on or after 6th April 2024.

Which employees are eligible to take paternity leave?

Paternity Leave is only available to employees. It is not available to workers, consultants or other self-employed contractors.

To be eligible for paternity leave an employee must:

  • have worked continuously for the company for 26 weeks up until the 15th week before the baby is due (or, for adoption, for 26 weeks before the child’s adopter is notified of their match with the adopted child); and
  • be the biological parent of the child or the partner (including civil partner) of the child’s mother or adopter; and
  • have, or expect to have, responsibility for the upbringing of the child; and
  • be absent for the purpose of caring for the child, or supporting the mother/adopter of the child in her/their caring for the child.

As well as for birth and adoption cases, the right to take paternity leave also applies in ‘fostering for adoption’ cases. This is where a local authority places a child who is temporarily in its care with one of the authority’s foster parents who has approval as a person who is suitable to adopt a child, with a view to the foster parent adopting the child in due course. One parent may take adoption leave and the other may take paternity leave. This is subject to the main eligibility criteria above.

The right to take paternity leave also applies in surrogacy cases where two individuals enter a surrogacy arrangement with a woman who bears a child which is genetically related to one or both of them. The individuals may apply for a ‘parental order’ providing for the child to be treated in law as their own child. One of the individuals will be entitled to take paternity leave if they already have a parental order in their favour in relation to the child, or intend to apply (either immediately or within the first six months after birth) for such an order and expect the court to grant it.

There are no changes to this eligibility criteria in the forthcoming new rules.

What are some commonly misunderstood issues surrounding paternity leave? 
  • Paternity leave is actually available to all employees irrespective of gender, so long as they meet the eligibility criteria (see above).
  • The right to take paternity leave also applies in respect of children who are adopted, fostered for adoption, or who are born via surrogacy, subject to specific eligibility criteria in each case.
  • Employees who are entitled to paternity leave are also entitled to 2 days’ unpaid time off to accompany a mother to ante-natal appointments during the pregnancy.
  • If there are multiple births (e.g. twins) or adoptions (e.g. adopting siblings at the same time), there is no entitlement to any extra paternity leave per child!
  • In adoption cases, paternity leave can be taken in respect of children up to the age of 18 who are being placed for adoption, not just babies.
  • It is not possible to take paternity leave if an employee has already taken ‘shared parental leave’ (which allows a couple effectively to share the more generous leave and pay entitlements of maternity/adoption leave between them) in respect of the same child. Employees should be advised to take any paternity leave entitlements first.
What should I do to implement the changes to paternity leave entitlements, and what are my obligations as an employer?
  • Ensure that your policies on Paternity Leave are amended to reflect the above changes.
  • Make managers aware so that absences on paternity leave can be planned and effectively managed.
  • Ensure that employees who may be expecting to take Paternity Leave are aware of their new entitlements.

Further help

For advice and support on implementing the new paternity leaves into your business processes and policies you can contact me to discuss how we can assist further.

About Fiona Morgan

Fiona is a senior employment lawyer with more than 18 years’ experience in advising a diverse range of corporate clients on employment law issues. Before joining Arbor Law, she was a partner and co-head of the Employment law department at Kennedys, working with a wide range of clients from multinational insurers and transport businesses to SMEs and start- ups. She advises clients on an array of employment matters, from day-to-day employment law queries to strategic guidance on long-term projects and corporate transactions.