Paternity leave and pay: A guide for working fathers

Here's what you need to know about paternity leave, including how much you can expect to get paid, the pros and cons of taking it, as well as tips on how to make your experience a positive one.

You may be eligible for paternity leave if you’re a baby’s father, your partner is having a baby, you’re adopting a child, or you’re having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement. You’ll be entitled to the same rights regardless of whether you’re in a same-sex relationship or an opposite-sex relationship. 

Although the time off that you’re entitled to may differ depending on the options offered by your employer, the most important thing to remember is that if you’re eligible for paternity leave, you have the right to take it. 

What is paternity leave and how do I qualify? 

Statutory Paternity Leave is the time you can take off to spend time with your newborn and support your partner after the arrival of your child. 

If you’re an employee, you’re entitled to either 1 or 2 weeks of paid paternity leave. To qualify, you must be continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the ‘qualifying week’. The ‘qualifying week’ is the 15th week before the baby is due. You must also earn at least £120 a week (before tax).

This is different if you adopt. You must inform your employer 28 days before you want your paternity leave and pay to start, or within 7 days of being told by the adoption agency that you’ve matched with a child.

What employment rights do I have when on paternity leave?

Your employment rights are protected whilst on paternity leave. This includes your right to:

  • Pay rises
  • Build up (accrue) holiday
  • Return to work

You’re entitled to time off to accompany your partner (or the surrogate mother) to 2 antenatal appointments.

If you’re adopting, you can attend 2 adoption appointments after you’ve matched with a child.

How much pay will I receive?

The statutory weekly rate of paternity pay is £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Any money you receive is paid in the same way as your wages (for example, monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted and the money is usually paid whilst you’re on leave. Your employer must confirm the start and end dates for your paternity pay when you claim it. 

To change the start date you must give your employer 28 days’ notice.

When should I tell my employer about going on paternity leave?

You’ll need to give your employer notice that you want to take paternity leave. You should do this at least 15 weeks before your baby’s due date, or within 7 days of being matched with a child for adoption.

When you give notice you’ll need to tell your employer:

  • That you’re entitled to paternity leave and you’re taking leave to support the mother or care for the child.
  • When the baby is due or the date of the birth (if you’re adopting, give the date you’re matched with your child or the date when the child is placed with you).
  • When you’d like to start your paternity leave and pay. 
  • Whether you’re taking 1 or 2 weeks of paternity leave. 

You can give your employer this information using HM Revenue and Customs certificates for a birth child or an adopted child.

What happens if I lose my baby? 

Losing your baby can be a challenging and emotional time regardless of how far along your partner may have been. It’s important to remember that you can still receive paternity leave or pay to grieve and support your family if your baby is:

  • Stillborn from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Born alive at any point during the pregnancy.

What do I do if I think my employer is being unfair?

If your employer doesn’t think they need to give you paternity pay, or you feel they’re not paying the right amount, you can contact Citizens Advice. They will provide further information and guidance on whether you’re facing discrimination. You can also try talking to your employer about the situation, as you may be able to resolve it informally. If you can’t resolve the issue, you can make a written complaint.

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