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What is paternity leave?

Paternity leave is time off work that fathers and partners may be legally entitled to when they and their partner are having a child. The leave is available to both fathers and other partners (eg same-sex partners) of a child’s mother or birth parent, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements.

Either one or 2 weeks’ paternity leave may be taken. Somebody taking paternity leave may also be eligible for statutory paternity pay (SPP) during their leave. 

Who is eligible for paternity leave?

To qualify for statutory paternity leave, a person must generally:

  • be employed and have worked for their current employer for at least 26 weeks by:

    • the week before the 14th week before the child’s expected week of birth (for children had by birth), or

    • the week before the week in which the person or their partner is notified of having been matched with a child (for children being adopted) 

  • be either: 

    • the child’s biological parent (eg father), or

    • the partner of the mother or of a primary adopter (eg a spouse, civil partner, or other partner who lives with the mother or adopter in an enduring family relationship)

  •  expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing

Certain exceptions may be made to these eligibility criteria if, for example, the child is born earlier than the 14th week before their expected week of birth or if the child dies or is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Eligibility also covers adoption via surrogacy arrangements.  

When can paternity leave be taken?

The old rules 

For paternity leave taken in relation to a child whose expected week of childbirth starts on or before 6 April 2024 (or, in adoption cases, where the expected date of placement is before 6 April 2024), the 2 week paternity leave entitlement must be taken in one block

The leave must be taken within 8 weeks (ie 56 days) of the child’s birth or placement or, if the child is born early, of the expected date of their birth.

The new rules 

Where paternity leave is taken in relation to a child whose expected week of childbirth starts after 6 April 2024 (or, in adoption cases, where the expected date of placement is on or after 6 April 2024), an employee is still entitled to up to 2 weeks of paternity leave. However, they may take this:

  • in one block of 2 weeks’ leave

  • in one block of one week’s leave, or

  • in 2 blocks of one week’s leave at different times (ie during non-consecutive weeks)

The employee can take their paternity leave in one of these ways any time between the child’s date of birth or placement for adoption and the end of 52 weeks after that day (or after the end of the week in which it was expected the child would be born, if they were born before this week) . 

Pay during paternity leave

Employees are generally entitled to statutory paternity pay (SPP) if they take paternity leave and also:

  • earn more than a set amount (as of March 2024, £123 per week before tax, worked out as an average over the 8-week period before the expected birth week or the week of notification of adoption), and

  • have worked for their employer continuously for 26 weeks before the week that is 15 weeks before either the expected birth week or the week of notification of adoption

SPP should usually be claimed in writing at least 15 weeks before the expected birth week or within 7 days following notification of adoption. Claims may be via an employer’s own forms or a statutory form (ie form SC3 for children by birth or form SC4 for children by adoption).

SPP is paid for up to 2 weeks. As of 7 April 2024, it’s amount is the lower of:

  • £184.03 per week, or

  • 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings

An employee’s employment contract or other employment documents (eg the employer’s Paternity policy) may specify that the employee will receive more pay than SPP during paternity leave. This is an ‘additional', ‘contractual’, or 'enhanced' paternity leave entitlement.

How can paternity leave be taken? 

An employee must provide the proper notice in order to take paternity leave. They must give both: 

  • notice of their entitlement to take paternity leave and their general intention to take it, and

  • notice of a specific period of paternity leave that they intend to take

These notices may be given at the same time. These notices and declarations should be given in a specific way and a specified amount of time before the leave is taken. These time periods vary depending on, for example, whether a child is being born or adopted. For more information, read Acas’ guidance on taking paternity leave

Other types of leave for fathers and partners

Expectant fathers or other partners may also take unpaid time off work to attend up to 2 antenatal or adoption appointments (up to a maximum of 6.5 hours for each appointment). This entitlement exists regardless of the length of time the person has worked for their current employer. 

It’s important to note that if somebody exercises their right to take paid time off to attend an adoption appointment, they may lose their right to take paternity leave in relation to that child. 

Somebody may also lose their right to paternity leave if they take shared parental leave before paternity leave. However, shared parental leave may sometimes be taken after paternity leave. For more information, read Shared parental leave

Important considerations for employers

During paternity leave, an employee’s Employment contract continues except for their regular pay provisions, and all benefits must continue as normal.

Employees must not be dismissed or subjected to any detriment for taking or requesting paternity leave. Employers should have a regularly updated  Paternity policy in place to help managers and staff members understand paternity leave rights and obligations. This policy should also reference the employer’s Data protection policy and Employee privacy notice. For more information, read Data protection and employees.

Holiday continues to accrue during paternity leave. Employees and workers are also permitted to carry over any statutory holiday entitlements remaining at the end of a leave year into the next leave year if they’ve been unable to take this holiday due to being on paternity leave.

Pension contributions should be maintained during paid paternity leave.

Take care to adjust performance and bonus targets, where appropriate, to avoid unfairly penalising employees on paternity leave. Pro-rating (ie adjusting a target in proportion to the amount of leave taken) is normally acceptable. Do not reduce bonuses that are not dependent on the amount of work performed (eg loyalty bonuses or some Christmas bonuses).

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