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Paternity rights: what’s next?

Paternity rights have been making headlines for the past couple of months, with many calling for an increase in the statutory entitlement which currently sits at just two weeks. With countries such as Spain and Sweden spearheading the movement, providing sixteen weeks’ and ninety days’ entitlement respectively, it’s becoming increasingly clear just how ungenerous the UK’s paternity leave and pay offering is.

To be eligible for paternity leave and pay, employees must: –

  • Be either the father of the child or the partner of the birthing parent; and
  • have twenty-six weeks continuous service up to any day in the “qualifying week” (the fifteenth week before the baby is due).

Note, the requirement for adopting parents or parents using a surrogate are different.

For those two weeks, which can be taken either consecutively or in two blocks of one week as of 6th April 2024, statutory paternity leave is paid at either 90% of the employee’s weekly earnings or £184.03 per week – whichever is lower. Some larger companies offer enhanced paternity pay, but many more do not. As a result, few employees take statutory paternity leave despite the recent changes. Many employees may be forced to take annual leave instead as they can’t afford to take time off given the low rate of statutory paternity pay.

New research from Pregnant Then Screwed revealed that, as of March 2024, less than a third of partners were able to access enhanced paternity leave and pay after the birth of their most recent child. 70.6% of those who only used part of their paternity leave entitlement revealed that they simply could not afford to stay off work longer.

However, it isn’t all bleak with paternity leave and pay appearing in all three of the major political parties’ election manifestos. The Liberal Democrats have pledged to increase paternity leave to four weeks and catchily classified it as a ‘dad month’. They have also assured voters they will increase paternity pay but it’s not clear yet as to how much this will be. Labour has also promised to enhance paternity pay and leave and make it a statutory right from day one of employment. If you would like to discuss any issues raised in this article or another employment law matter, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Employment team.