Paternity leave has been around for a long time, since 2002, but the Government will be shortly introducing new rules that will make it both easier to take and more flexible.

Up until now, the intention of an employee (they could be a father or a partner in this context) to take paternity leave had to be formally lodged with their employer on or before the 15th week before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC).  This is also known as the Qualifying Week (QW).  The employee had a stark choice, take a block of one week or two continuous weeks sometime during the first eight weeks after birth, or the adoption matching date.  And for some reason, the leave could not be split into two separate weeks.

These new rules reduce the notification required to 28 days (or 7 days for adoption), and allow this leave to be taken either as a two-week block, or two separate one-week blocks, any time in the first year after birth or adoption. The rules rather intriguingly view adoption as more unpredictable than the birth of a child. Parents of early or late babies may well disagree!

These regulations are expected to come into force on 8th March 2024, though they will only apply to babies whose EWC begins after 6th April 2024. And, for adoption purposes, whose expected date of placement for adoption, or when the adoption comes from abroad, when the expected date of entry into Great Britain for adoption, is on or after that date.

The rules are still quite rigid however, and the employee has to state not the exact date they wish to take leave, but how long after the birth or adoption they wish to take it. Any changes to this schedule should also be communicated at least 28 days in advance.

Any parent out there will tell you the arrival of the child is not necessarily something you can plan for in advance. Nor is the need for leave so precise that you can schedule it effectively before it happens.

Nevertheless, these rules will make it slightly easier for parents to prepare, while still giving employers some warning when employees are likely to be away. Please note that while holiday requests can be turned down, normally for good business reasons, paternity requests cannot, providing they have been notified in the appropriate way.

These are draft regulations, but employers need to be aware of the impending changes to paternity leave notification and, we are also waiting on other possible changes to paternity pay, which as yet have not been communicated out.

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