Following the birth of a child or an adoption placement, fathers, spouses and partners/civil partners who are employees have a right to paternity leave and pay, to care for the child or support the mother. Parents of a child born to a surrogate mother are also entitled to paternity leave and pay.
Fathers and partners/civil partners who are workers won’t qualify for Paternity Leave but may qualify for Paternity Pay (see below). Freelancers, unless they are classed as Workers, aren’t eligible for either paternity leave or pay.
N.B. A child’s father won’t be entitled to Paternity Leave or Pay if he’s separated, divorced or living apart from the child’s mother and plays little or no part in the child’s upbringing.
Eligibility for Paternity Leave
Employees must satisfy the following conditions in order to qualify for paternity leave. They must:
- have or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing
- be the biological or adopted father of the child, or the mother’s (who’s pregnant or adopting) husband, partner or civil partner
- have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks (ending with the 15th week before the baby is due, or at the week of notification of an adoption match), and have a contract of employment with their employer. For more details read our article about continuous service for employees and workers
- there are no age restrictions.
If you’re not eligible, you can always ask your Employer if you can take some time off, paid or unpaid, for this purpose.
Length of Paternity Leave
- You can take up to two consecutive weeks’ paternity leave (not odd days)
- You can choose to start your leave on the day the baby is born, matched for adoption, a chosen number of days or weeks after the birth/adoption, or when the baby is expected to be born/adopted
- Leave can start on any day of the week after the child’s birth/adoption but must be finished within 56 days (eight weeks) of the baby being born/adopted
- For details on bank holidays that occur during paternity leave see our Working Time Directive page
- If your partner has a multiple birth you’re only allowed one period of paternity leave.
Statutory Paternity Pay
- During their two weeks Ordinary Paternity Leave, most employees are entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) from their employers
- Statutory Paternity Pay is paid by employers for up to two consecutive weeks. The rate is £151.20 per week from April 2020, increasing to £151.97 per week from 4th April 2021.
- If you earn less than the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) for National Insurance contributions (currently £116, increasing to £118 from April 2019), you’re not eligible for SPP but have the right to unpaid paternity leave if you meet the other conditions
- ‘Workers’ may be eligible for SPP (not leave) if you meet the other qualifying conditions above (see under ‘Eligibility’).
The government has published an ‘online calculator’ so you can work out what maternity, paternity or shared parental pay you may be entitled to – which you can see here.
Notice of intention to take Paternity Leave
- You must inform your employers of your intention to take paternity leave by the end of the fifteenth week before the baby is expected or no later than seven days after the notification of an adoption match, unless this isn’t reasonably practicable
- You must tell your employers: the week the baby is due (or due to be adopted); whether you wish to take one or two weeks’ leave (you can't take less than a week); when you want your leave to start
- You must give your employer 28 days notice of the date on which you want SPP to start
- You can change your mind about the date on which you want your leave to start providing you tell your employer at least 28 days in advance (unless this isn’t reasonably practicable)
- Your Employer may not postpone or defer your paternity leave if you’ve given the proper notice
- If you don’t give the proper notice you’re not entitled to take paternity leave.
Return to work after Paternity Leave
You’re entitled to return to the same job following paternity leave. A European Court of Justice case in September 2013 (Halliday v Creation Consumer Finance Ltd) found that an employee absent on parental leave could be made redundant, as long as the reason for the dismissal was not the parental leave (this applies to both maternity leave and paternity leave too).
Additional Paternity Leave
Shared Parental Leave has been introduced and Additional Paternity Leave and Pay has been abolished.
If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to us at The HR Kiosk - a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.
Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.