After a considerable gestation period the government has announced the amendments to the operation of Statutory Paternity Leave (SPL) which will enable more flexibility for employed fathers and partners to decide when they take leave and receive pay if they qualify.
The Office for National Statistics has charted a change in the way that parents are engaged in the labour market after the birth of a child, “until 2020 the most common working arrangement for families where both parents worked was for a man to work full-time and the partner part-time. However, since 2020 the most common working arrangement has been both parents working full-time” (ONS Employment & Labour Market 2021). This shift has perhaps added to the necessity to adjust the allocation of SPL to help families at this most critical of times.
Following proposals outlined in the Good Work Plan, published way back in July 2019, recommendations were put forward for the government to seek views on a series of questions about parental leave and pay. The objectives of the consultation was to solidify how to:
- explore the objectives of parental leave and pay
- see how government policy supports parents and employers
- identify the factors which enable parents to combine work and childcare and the impact of these factors
- look at high level options for reforming parental leave and pay
So what is the offer currently? Eligible employees have the right to take Paternity Leave at the statutory rate of pay in 1 or 2 consecutive week blocks within the first 8 weeks after a child is born or adopted.
And perhaps more importantly, what will be gained? New legislation will amend the current rules with the intention of providing greater flexibility by applying the following measures:
- Allow fathers or partners to split their leave into 2 blocks of 1 week. Currently, only 1 block of 1 or 2 consecutive weeks could be taken and with a use it or lose it message.
- Allow fathers or partners to take their leave and pay at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of their child instead of only within the first 8 weeks.
- Adjust the way fathers or partners give notice of leave and pay to their employer. The new measure will require an employee to give notice that they intend to take leave 15 weeks prior to the expected week of childbirth (EWC), and then 4 weeks’ notice of dates prior to each period of leave.
The new legislation will take effect from 7 April 2024. Compared to the Scandinavian model of paternity leave, the changes can be seen as baby steps but nonetheless this legislation is a step in the right direction.