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Changes to paternity leave and pay on the horizon

Changes to paternity leave and pay on the horizon
Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

The way in which paternity leave and pay can be claimed and taken is set to change in March. Here’s what you need to know.

From Friday 8 March, expectant fathers and partners will be able to take their paternity leave in non-consecutive blocks, allowing them to spread the up to two weeks across the first year of a baby’s birth.

Currently, only one block of leave can be taken – either one or two weeks – but the change is expected to remove this barrier so fathers can take two non-consecutive weeks of leave.

This leave and pay can also be taken at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of a child, rather than the current first eight weeks of birth.

The Government said this “gives fathers and partners more flexibility to take their paternity leave at a time that works for their family”.

As part of the changes, the notice period that staff are expected to give their employers for each period of leave will also be shortened.

Greater flexibility for fathers

Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula said the amount of time fathers can spend with their newborns hasn’t changed which “would have made a greater splash”, but the administrative changes do give them greater flexibility.

“Those who may only have been able to take one week of leave for financial reasons will now get to take two weeks, albeit at separate times”, she said.

Palmer added: “Fathers and mothers’ partners will have more flexibility on when they want to take paternity leave. Those whose financial circumstances meant they could only take one week of leave around the birth of the child – which is when the vast majority of employees take paternity leave – would then lose the second week but they will now have an option not to lose it, but to take it at a later time. That later time can – once the law comes into force – be much later after the birth than previously because the permitted time period will be a year since the birth rather than eight weeks.

“It means employees have the choice to plan in their leave at a time that suits them better. They will be able to make a decision on when to take the leave closer to the time; previously they needed to give almost four months’ notice of when to take it but will now only have to give four weeks.”

Palmer said that in reality, the vast majority of employees will still take both weeks from the birth of the child because “that’s when they want to be at home”.

“I expect that a very small amount will actually take the option of two separate weeks months apart unless they know very early on that that will suit their specific circumstances,” she added.

One thing to bear in mind is when it comes to splitting leave across different tax years.

Palmer said: “Depending on when they take leave, there could be a small difference in the amount of paternity pay they receive when they are on leave. Pay rates are reviewed each April so two separate weeks of leave either side of an April will attract different pay rates. We’re talking a few pounds per week though.”

The statutory weekly rate of paternity pay is currently £172.48 (or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower). Palmer added that the Government has proposed to increase this to £184.03 from April 2024. However, the adoption of this figure needs final confirmation “but it is fully expected that it will be”, Palmer said.

Related: Increasing paid paternity leave could narrow gender pay gap