Recent Updates to Family Leave Rights in the UK

Since 6 April 2024, significant updates have been made to Family Leave legislation to improve the rights of employees in the workplace. In this article, Jane Cordner, Head of HR Services dissects the key changes and impacts on both employers and employees.

Carer’s Leave

In addition to the existing right to take a reasonable amount of time off to care for a dependant (which is limited to emergencies, unexpected incidents, death, or making long-term care arrangements), employees will have the right to take unpaid carer’s leave for up to one week in a rolling 12-month period to provide or arrange care for their dependant who has a long-term care need. The leave can be taken continuously, or in small blocks, but a minimum amount of half a working day must be taken per instance.

This right is valid from the first day of employment so there is no qualifying service required. The employee must give specific notice of either twice as many days as the period of leave required, or three days, whichever is the greater.

An employer cannot ask an employee to provide evidence to show that they are eligible to take a carer’s leave. Also, a request cannot be declined, but it may be postponed if the employer reasonably considers that the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted if the employee takes the leave when requested.

Paternity Leave

Prior to March 2024, Statutory Paternity Leave (SPL) legislation gave employees the right to take one or two consecutive weeks of leave following the birth or adoption of a child, so long as the paternity leave was taken within eight weeks of the child’s birth or placement with the adopter.

Notice of the intention to take SPL previously had to be given 15 weeks before the expected date of childbirth. 

From April 2024, the legislation has been changed and the rights of employees have improved as follows: 

  • The two weeks' statutory paternity leave can now be taken in two separate blocks of one week rather than a single block of two consecutive weeks
  • The leave can be taken at any point during the first year, rather than within the first eight weeks, following birth or adoption 
  • The notice that an employee is required to give has been reduced to a minimum of 28 days before the period of leave begins rather than 15 weeks before the estimated week of childbirth

Flexible Working Requests

From 6 April 2024, there is no service requirement to be met before an employee can make a flexible working request to change their pattern of work. This means all employees can ask for changes to be made to how they work from the first day of employment.

In addition, employees are not required to set out the impact of their requested arrangements when they make an application and employers have to deal with requests within two months rather than three months, ensuring they consult with an employee before refusing a request.

Finally, employees now have the right to submit two requests within 12 months rather than just one. 

What is not changing, however, is the employer’s ability to refuse a flexible working request and the statutory reasons for doing so.

Enhanced Protection in a Redundancy

From 6 April 2024, the rights of employees on maternity, adoption, and shared parental leave to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy above all other employees in a redundancy situation have been extended to include employees who have already informed their employer that they are pregnant and those who are within 18 months after the birth. 

What Should Employers Be Doing?

  • Updating policies and procedures.  Due to the number of changes to family-friendly and time-off rights being introduced at the moment, now is a good time to carry out a general review of all your family-friendly leave policies in your organisation 
  • Communicate changes to employees.  Ensure that your employees are aware of the flexibility being introduced with these changes as it shows your commitment to supporting all those with family responsibilities 

Upcoming Legislation: Neonatal Care

From April 2025 legislation will likely be introduced providing a new right to statutory neonatal leave and pay.  It is expected to be a 'day one' right entitling employees to up to 12 weeks' statutory neonatal care leave if their baby requires specialist neonatal care following birth.  

The legislation is intended to give parents more time to provide critical care for their baby without worrying about using other forms of paid/unpaid leave, or having to return to work whilst their baby is still receiving hospital care. 

Payments are expected to be at the statutory prescribed rate or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

For expert guidance or consultation on developing employment policies for your business, please contact Jane Cordner at 01258459361 or You can also visit our Employment Services webpage.

Blanchards Bailey

So, how can we help?

Whatever your requirements, our team is standing by.

Call us today on
01258 459361