What is The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill?

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Act 2024 received royal assent on 24 May 2024, meaning it will likely translate into law during the first half of 2025. The new law promises to update and expand the rights of fathers and their partners facing a bereavement. Employers should familiarise themselves with the upcoming changes before they take effect, so they are prepared to facilitate the changes.


Overview of the bill

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Act 2024 is a private members’ bill intended as an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996. The primary change brought about by the bill is that paternity leave will now be a right for partners and fathers facing bereavement from day one. In addition, it introduces the following:

  • The usual 26-week minimum service requirement to be eligible for paternity leave will be disapplied for fathers and partners where the mother has died in the first year after birth or adoption. A bereaved parent of an adopted child or intended parent of a child born through a surrogacy arrangement, will also fall within the scope of the new provisions.
  • The stipulation that a parent who has taken shared parental leave (SPL) cannot subsequently take paternity leave will be removed in such circumstances.
  • In situations where the child also dies (or is returned after adoption), regulations could allow the bereaved employee to stay on paternity leave for a period, despite the fact that they would not be taking the leave for the usual purpose of supporting the mother or caring for the child.
  • Regulations could provide enhanced redundancy protection to bereaved employees when they return from extended paternity leave, including provision requiring an employer to offer alternative employment and provision for the consequences of any failure to comply, which may include that any such dismissal is treated as an unfair dismissal.
  • Regulations could allow bereaved employees to work for their employer without bringing their leave to an end (by way of keeping-in-touch (KIT) days).
  • Although not set out in the PLB Act itself, we understand that regulations will provide for paternity leave to be extended to 52 weeks, rather than the usual two weeks, in these circumstances.

The law around paternity leave will affect some businesses more than others depending on the make-up of its employees. Nevertheless, it’s important employment law advice for small business and larger businesses alike.


What the Paternity Leave Bill means for UK employers

With the bill receiving royal assent, the advice for employers is to start thinking about what actions they need to take, and which HR policies need to be brought in or updated. Failure to facilitate the new rules could lead to extreme dissatisfaction from employees who have suffered a spousal bereavement. Plus, legal action that proves an employer failed to make the relevant accommodations could result in extreme financial damage to the company.

It’s also important to note that the bill will also allow the secretary of state to introduce regulations for enhanced redundancy protections. Although this isn’t on the horizon at the time of writing.


Employment law support for businesses

As an employer, you must uphold any statutory benefits held by your employees. This includes entitlements such as paternity leave and how it should be given. Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd are here to support your business and foster an inclusive working environment that complies with all relevant statutes. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re unsure how to prepare for the approved Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill or any other upcoming changes to UK employment law.