Paternity Leave UK: A Comprehensive Guide for Employees

If your partner is pregnant or you are expecting a child via adoption or surrogacy, you may have questions about paternity leave and associated rights.

Our team of employment law specialists can answer your questions, ensure your rights aren’t being breached and advise how you can proceed

Read our guide on paternity leave below

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paternity leave uk

Statutory Paternity Leave – What is it?

Statutory paternity leave in the UK refers to the time eligible individuals can take off work to support their baby. If eligible, this time off is a legal entitlement.

Who is Eligible for Paternity Leave in the UK?

Individuals must satisfy specific eligibility criteria for this type of family leave. First, the person must be legally classified as an employee and be taking the time off to support their child. Second, they must be the child’s biological father, intended parent or the mother’s husband or partner. This includes partners of the same sex.

Additionally, the individual needs to give their employer at least 15 weeks’ notice before they intend to take such leave. Lastly, they must have worked a minimum of 26 weeks continuously for their employer by the end of the 15th week before the baby’s due date week (the ‘qualifying week’).

I Am Not Eligible for Paternity Leave, What Are My Options?

When someone is ineligible for paternity leave in the UK, they may need to make alternative arrangements. This could include taking some annual holidays or other special leave. Alternatively, the individual may be able to take unpaid leave, should their financial situation allow it.

How Long is the Paternity Leave Entitlement?

The length of paternity leave for fathers and other eligible individuals depends on the baby’s due date. If the baby is due on or before 6 April 2024, employees can take either one or two consecutive weeks of leave.

If the baby is due after 6 April 2024, the individual can still only take up to two weeks of leave. However, these don’t need to be consecutive weeks, meaning they could be utilised separately.

Yet, regardless of when the baby is due, the rules concerning what constitutes a week remain consistent. Whatever an employee usually works, their time off will reflect this. For example, if an employee works three days a week, their week off will comprise three days.

Taking Leave for Antenatal Appointments

Individuals taking statutory paternity leave in the UK are legally entitled to attend two pregnancy-related appointments. Sometimes known as antenatal appointments, employees can take up to 6.5 hours off work per appointment to attend each one.

The employer is not obligated to pay the employee during this time; however, it’s best to check company policy. The employer may offer remuneration during this period or additional time to attend.

If company policy doesn’t offer remuneration whilst attending antenatal appointments, the individual may be able to take annual leave. Alternatively, they could offer to make the time up elsewhere. In any event, the individual must first discuss and agree on either scenario with their employer.

When Does Paternity Leave in the UK Start?

If you’re wondering how long the UK paternity leave is for men and other eligible individuals, it can commence once the baby has been born. After such time, the leave must be used within the following 56 days. Supposing the baby is born prematurely, this time limit would apply from the due date.

Additional Paternity Leave

This legal entitlement enables eligible individuals to take up to 26 weeks of additional leave to look after their baby. Additional paternity leave can only be taken following the mother or primary adopter’s return to work.

Such leave can commence 20 weeks after the child’s birth or placement. It doesn’t have to be taken immediately but must be completed within 12 months of the birth/placement date.

How Do I Appy For Paternity Leave?: Informing Your Employer

As mentioned, individuals need to give their employer 15 weeks’ notice to apply for paternity leave. They should complete the Government’s online paternity leave form or their employer’s own if they have one.

As part of the notice, employees will need to supply information, including:

  • The baby’s due date
  • When they want to begin their leave
  • How long they would like to take off (one or two weeks)

Rights During Paternity Leave in the UK

An individual’s employment rights are protected while taking this type of family leave. Among other things, they will:

  • Be able to return to the job they held before going on leave
  • Accrue their regular holiday entitlement
  • Be protected from unfair dismissal

Paternity Leave During Adoption

Paternity leave for men and other eligible individuals can also be taken during adoption. Such leave can begin when the child is placed with the employee:

  1. If adoption occurs before 6 April 2024, the leave must be taken within 56 days of placement.
  2. If adoption occurs on or after this date, leave can instead be taken within 52 weeks of the placement date.

Who is Eligible?

Like paternity leave in the UK after childbirth, specific eligibility criteria must be satisfied before taking it following adoption. Again, the individual must be taking the time off to support the child, be an employee and give the correct notice to their employer.

In addition, they must be the adopter and have worked at least 26 weeks continuously for their employer by the ‘matching week’. For UK adoptions, this is the end of the week the individual is matched with the child. For overseas ones, this is the date the child enters the UK or the desired date paternity pay begins.

How Do I Give Notice of Paternity Leave During the Adoption Process?

As discussed, individuals must give their employer the correct notice to be eligible for paternity leave during adoption. If it’s a UK adoption, they should complete their employer’s or Government’s adoption form. This must be provided to the employer within seven days of the employee being notified they’ve been matched with a child.

Should it be an overseas adoption, they must complete the Government’s overseas adoption form. This time, the individual would be required to provide their employer with the relevant information within 28 days of either:

  • When they were officially notified of the adoption
  • The date they’ve continuously worked for their employer for 26 weeks

Whichever of the above dates is later is the one the individual must comply with.

Do I Need to Offer Any Proof of Adoption?

Proof of adoption is only required for paternity leave in the UK if the employer asks for it. Supposing they did, the individual could provide proof by supplying an adoption agency letter or matching certificate. If asked for, this information must be provided within 28 days. If applying for paternity pay, proof is always required.

What is Statutory Paternity Pay?

Statutory paternity pay is the minimum amount employers can pay eligible employees. It is paid for one or two weeks, usually when the individual is on leave, and is the lower of:

  • £172.48 weekly, or
  • 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings

When an individual claims such pay, the employer must confirm the start and end dates. Furthermore, the money will be paid the same way the individual’s wages typically are, for example, weekly or monthly. Before the employee receives payment, it will be subject to national insurance and tax deductions.

To be eligible for such pay, an individual must be the child’s father or be married to, the civil partner or partner of the child’s birth parent. Additionally, the individual must:

  • Have worked at least 26 weeks continuously for their employer by the qualifying week
  • Still be employed by the said employer when the child is born
  • Earn, on average, a minimum of £123 weekly over an eight-week period, ending on a day in the qualifying week

Furthermore, an employee must request statutory paternity pay in writing at least 15 weeks before the due date. They can do this by completing their employer’s form, if they have one, or the Government’s.

Adoption Pay

Statutory paternity pay is also available for those adopting. Similarly, the individual must be married to, the civil partner or partner of the child’s primary adopter. They must also:

  • Have worked at least 26 weeks continuously for their employer by the matching week
  • Have constantly worked for the said employer between the matching week and the start date of the adoption
  • Earn, on average, a minimum of £123 weekly over an eight-week period, ending on a day in the matching week

Enhanced Paternity Pay: Is it a Better Option?

Enhanced paternity pay is any additional figure employers offer on top of the statutory amount.

Unlike the statutory payment, employers aren’t legally obligated to pay this sum. However, some employers may include an enhanced payment in their company policy or employment contracts to help entice and retain talent.

This figure can significantly help the employee and their partner during leave for the birth or adoption of their child. This includes enabling the mother/primary adopter to more evenly split their leave with their partner. Despite this, should the individual fail to return to work, they may have to repay the enhanced figure.

Parental Order During Surrogacy

Should a child be born through surrogacy, the surrogate, and potentially their partner, will be the legal parents at birth. A parental order must be made following childbirth to transfer parenthood to the intended parents.

If an individual is applying for a parental order independently, they must be genetically related to the child. If the parental order is being made with a partner, one of the individuals must be genetically related to the child, and they must be married, in a civil partnership or living as partners.

In either case, the child must be living with them, they must permanently reside in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man, and they must apply within six months of the child’s birth.

Parental Rights For Fathers During Surrogacy

Paternity leave in the UK could be available to fathers during surrogacy. The same goes for paternity pay. To be eligible for either, the individual must:

  • Be in a couple
  • Be responsible for the child
  • Have worked at least 26 weeks continuously for their employer by the qualifying week

In addition, the individual must give their employer the correct notice. For leave, this is a minimum of 28 days’ notice. For pay, at least 15 weeks’ notice must be provided.

My Employer Has Denied My Paternity Leave Application, What Do I Do?

Employers cannot refuse paternity leave for fathers and other individuals if they’re eligible. Supposing an employer decided to do so anyway, the employee could submit a formal written grievance outlining their rights. If the employer doesn’t resolve the matter, the employee could go to an employment tribunal following ACAS early conciliation.

We hope this guide has answered some common questions like “How long is paternity leave in the UK?” or “How much paternity pay in the UK is”.

Are you expecting a child, going through surrogacy or adopting and are not sure about your maternity rights and entitlements? Read our maternity leave guide now!

If you have any further questions or want help with your entitlement, contact Redmans Solicitors today. We are employment law specialists and can discuss your circumstances before advising you on your possible next steps.

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