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Flexible paternity leave plans announced by government

Government has announced it will amend legislation to give new parents more flexibility on when and how they take paternity leave, in response to a public consultation on parental leave and pay.

In July 2019, the government opened a consultation on reforming parental leave and pay but the response to the consultation, published last week (29 June), was significantly delayed by the pandemic. 

Under current legislation, employees can take paternity leave at the statutory rate of pay in a one- or two-week block during the first eight weeks after a child is born or adopted.

Yet government has now announced plans to allow fathers or partners to split their leave into two blocks of one week.  

Fathers will also be able to take their leave and pay at any point in the first year after their child is born or adopted, instead of only within the first eight weeks. 

The reforms will adjust the way fathers or partners give notice of leave and pay to their employer, meaning employees must give notice that they want to take leave 15 weeks prior to the expected week of childbirth, and then four weeks before each period of leave. 

More on paternity leave:

Fathers can't afford paternity leave, finds TUC

Quarter of fathers continue working when on paternity leave

Paternity leave policies becoming more inclusive globally

The CIPD has welcomed the reform but has called for further extension to statutory paternity leave. 

Speaking to HR magazine Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “We welcome the proposed government changes to flexibility of the way paternity leave can be taken. 

“However, we would like to see statutory paternity or partner provision enhanced to six weeks at or near the full rate of pay, to deliver more balance and choice over caring responsibilities.” 

More than half (53%) of families struggle financially when fathers take paternity leave, according to research published in June by the Trades Union Congress. 

Statutory paternity pay is currently £172.48 a week, or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower), and the UK has the least generous paternity leave entitlement in Europe.  

Simon Kelleher, head of policy at charity Working Families, said the government's reforms will not address financial concerns. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “While these reforms provide greater flexibility to paternity leave, they do not address the barriers that prevent fathers and partners from taking paternity leave.  

“Paternity pay is around a third of the average weekly wage and in our own research, most fathers from lower income households that we have spoken to told us that they had not taken as much time off as they wanted to due to financial concerns.”