Just like mums, new fathers are also entitled to time off work.
Employers are legally required to offer paternity leave (either paid or unpaid) so you can look after your child upon their arrival and make any necessary childcare arrangements. So what are your rights when it comes to paternity leave? We explain everything you need to know.
Who qualifies for paternity leave?
You’re entitled to paternity leave if you’re the biological father of the child, the mother’s husband or partner, or the child’s adopter or partner of the adopter.
You must be an employee of a company for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due (or the end of the week when you’re notified that you’ve successfully adopted).
It’s vital to notify your employer in writing about your incoming bundle of joy. In your written notice, give your boss important details including when the child is expected to arrive, how much paternity leave you want and when you want it to start (although no medical evidence is needed).
If you can’t give the required 15 week notice period (e.g. born prematurely, not enough notice from adoption agency), it’s important to tell your employer as soon as possible, and if there’s no valid reason you could lose some of what you’re normally entitled to.
We know you’re probably rather pre-occupied preparing for your new addition, so the stress-free way of doing this is by filling out a self certificate, as it contains all the information your employer will need to sort out your leave.
It’s important to know you can still take paternity leave if the child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or is born alive at any point of the pregnancy.
Sadly, most companies can’t offer you months of paid leave, so whether your partner has just given birth or you’ve recently adopted a child, your statutory paid paternity leave can last one or two weeks.
This applies no matter how many children you have. So even if it’s triplets, you’re only allowed one statutory paternity leave which must be taken in a single period of time (you aren’t allowed to spread out 14 days of leave over several months).
Paternity leave isn’t part of your annual holiday allowance, and you’re also entitled to parental leave should you need it.
How much is statutory paternity pay?
The amount you’ll receive in paternity pay will depend on your earnings.
If you earn over £107 a week (before tax), you’ll be given £135.45 per week. If this is less than you normally earn, you’ll receive 90% of your average weekly earnings instead.
And the good news is it’s not a hassle to organise, as your paternity pay will arrive into your account in the same way (and at the same time) as your normal salary. Because it’s treated as part of your wages, your employer will also deduct any tax and national insurance contributions, so every penny you see is yours to spend.
If you’ve got more than one job, you may be able to get paternity pay from each employer that you work for, although always check your contract, and if in doubt, arrange a meeting with your boss.
When can I start paternity leave?
You can start your paternity:
- From the day the baby is born
- A number of days or weeks after the baby is born, specified by you
- A number of days, specified by you, following the first day of the week your baby is expected
You can change the date of your paternity leave, as long as you give at least 28 days notice.However, your leave must end within eight weeks of the child’s arrival (or eight weeks after the expected date of birth if the baby is born early).
You can also start paternity leave after a period of parental leave has ended.
Additional paternity leave
You can apply to have additional paternity leave if your partner is returning to work. Additional leave lasts up to 26 weeks and can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after your child is born or placed with you for adoption.
To get additional paternity leave you must be an employee of the company for 26 weeks, and both you and your partner will need to meet additional requirements.
What if there’s an issue with my paternity leave?
If there’s a problem, it’s important to talk to your employer first, not only could this be a simple misunderstanding, but by talking things through, your boss will also get a better understanding of your situation.
If talking doesn’t solve anything, you need to make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure, and contact the HM Revenue and Customs employees enquiry line on 0845 302 1479 for further advice.
Not everyone will qualify for additional paternity leave or pay, but don’t worry if you don’t as there are other options available to you.
As well as requesting more flexible hours and applying for child benefit and tax credits, you may be able to take further annual leave or unpaid parental leave.