Employers should consider updating their family-friendly policies and procedures to take account of changes from April 2024 to the statutory paternity leave and flexible working regimes, and the introduction of carer's leave.
Paternity leave changes – new flexibilities for employees
The key changes to statutory paternity leave are:
- New flexibility is being introduced allowing employees to take two separate one-week blocks of leave, rather than having to take a single period of one or two weeks' paternity leave;
- Employees will be entitled to take paternity leave at any point in the first year after the child's birth or adoption, rather than having to take it within the first eight weeks; and
- The notice period for specifying when the employee wants to take paternity leave in cases of birth is being reduced from 15 weeks to 28 days.
These changes apply in relation to children whose expected week of childbirth is after 6 April 2024, and children whose expected date of placement for adoption is on or after 6 April 2024.
While the right to statutory paternity leave is limited to a maximum of two weeks' leave, paternity leave is often combined with shared parental leave or annual leave, so it may be that these new paternity leave flexibilities encourage employees to take more family-related leave.
Flexible working changes
As mentioned in our previous 'Three headline HR actions to start 2024' article, the Government is also making changes to the statutory right to request flexible working from 6 April 2024:
- The right to request flexible working becomes a Day One right - there is no longer a six-month qualifying period;
- Employees may make two requests (rather than one) in a 12-month period (but employers don't need to accept a new request if the first one is still being processed);
- Employees no longer need to set out the impact on the business or give suggestions for mitigating that impact as part of their request;
- The employer needs to consult with the employee before making any decision; and
- The request must be processed within two (rather than three) months of receiving it, unless the parties agree otherwise.
Acas' revised draft Code of Practice on Flexible Working taking account of these changes is awaiting approval by Parliament, and is expected to come into effect in April 2024.
New right to carer's leave
Employers will also want to consider introducing a new carer's leave policy. Employees who have a dependant with long term care needs will have a new right to take one week of unpaid carer’s leave within a 12-month rolling period. The leave can be taken as half or full days, up to and including taking a block of a whole week of leave at once.
If you would like more information or support on these upcoming changes to family friendly rights, please get in touch with your usual Mishcon contact or with a member of the Employment team.