The much-awaited response to the government’s consultation on parental leave and pay, titled the ‘Good Work Plan’ has been published. The response states the government’s intention to amend paternity leave legislation to make it more flexible, the aim being to increase the uptake of fathers taking paternity leave.
Currently fathers or partners may take up to two weeks’ leave and receive two weeks’ statutory paternity pay following the birth or adoption of a child.
What changes have the government proposed?
The government will amend current legislation to make statutory paternity leave and pay more flexible, by taking forward the following measures:
- fathers or partners may split their leave into two blocks of one week. Currently, only one block of one or two weeks’ leave can be taken.
- fathers or partners may take their leave and pay at any point during the first year following the birth or adoption of their child, instead of only within the first eight weeks.
- The government will adjust the way fathers or partners give notice of leave 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 or placement for adoption, and then four weeks’ notice of dates prior to each period of leave.
The aim of the reforms is to give fathers or partners and employers greater flexibility, as the two weeks can be taken at any point in the first year after birth or adoption.
When will these changes come into force?
The government has not proposed a particular timeframe to implement these changes but has indicated that such legislation will be introduced “in due course”. Therefore, there are no immediate actions for employers to take, but paternity leave policies will need updating in the future to align with the new law.
The international perspective
This increased flexibility is a welcome change. Currently in the UK, the statutory paternity leave entitlement for new fathers is up to two weeks, and the pay is either £172.48 a week, or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is the lowest).
In France, you are legally entitled to 28 days of fully paid paternity leave, and Spain’s paternity leave entitlement is equal to that of maternity leave – 16 weeks of full pay. A recent report found that countries with more than six weeks of paid paternity leave had a 4% smaller gender wage gap, and 3.7% smaller labour force participation gap than countries that had less than six weeks. A report by the Trades Unions Congress estimates that closing the gender employment gap in all UK local authorities could boost GDP by 1%, increasing economic output by £23bn.
If you require any further support or guidance on your paternity leave policies, or have any questions about these proposals, please reach out to your usual member of our team.
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