Fathers, Fairness and Flexibility – Bringing You Up to Speed on Paternity Rights

In a timely MAD-HR blog, with the UK marking Father’s Day on Sunday 16th June, our experts have been thinking about the latest employment-related updates in respect of paternity rights.

We’ll share here what new legislation employers need to consider on behalf of their team, but we’ll also be providing some suggestions and insights for those wanting to ensure their workplace is conscientious and considerate, as well as compliant.

From April this year, it became possible for employees taking statutory paternity leave to effectively ‘split’ how they take their two weeks of entitlement.

This means that should your staff member wish to, they might opt to have an initial week at home after the birth of a child, then return to the workplace, and take a subsequent week some months later.

Where previous rules meant the leave had to be taken within eight weeks of the child’s birth, this is no longer the case.

Your employee can actually take their second (or both, together) weeks at any point in their child’s first year.

Of course, as an employer, you’ll still want to feel reassured that a level of notice is required – and indeed it is.

Employees must give 28 days’ notice of intended leave, but it’s worth pointing out that this is some way down on the previous 15 weeks.

It remains an obligation on your member of staff to give notice of forthcoming entitlement to paternity leave, 15 weeks out from the expected birth date.

These changes are, it goes without saying, part of the ongoing need of any government to best reflect the changing times of our family set-up.

It’s likely we can expect this subject area to be one of continued change in the years ahead, not least to reflect the altered way in which responsibilities are shared in the home, and/or the balance of which partner in any household is the greater income earner.

Finally, talking of financial matters, you might wish to be mindful of how research is telling us that fewer and fewer fathers feel they are able to take the full amount of entitled leave, due to financial pressures (particularly as we work our way through the cost of living crisis and its impact).

A survey by Pregnant then Screwed, conducted this year in partnership with Women in Data, found 70.6% of men did not take their full leave because of financial restrictions.

With this in mind, and as an employer, you might want to ensure that you take the following actions:

  • Have a clear paternity leave policy in place, and ensure it forms part of any induction and recruitment material
  • At appropriate and regular intervals, do remind employees of their entitlement and how they can request leave
  • If you know of a member of staff due to be considering paternity leave, open frank dialogue and allow them the opportunity to share thoughts about how paternity would best work for them – and indeed, any concerns they have
  • Encourage colleagues to share their experiences with one another about such matters as parental leave
  • Consider carefully your own obligations about not seeking inappropriate frequency of contact with your member of staff when you know them to be on leave

If you’d like to discuss any of these matters with our team, please click the link below.