Paternity Leave

If you are a father-to-be or you will be responsible with the mother for bringing up a child, you could have the right to Paternity Leave. You may also qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay. Find out what you are entitled to.

Company paternity leave schemes

Some employers have their own paternity leave arrangements which are more generous than the statutory entitlement. These will normally be included in your employment contract. You can always choose Statutory Leave arrangements if this suits you better and you qualify for it.

Time off for antenatal appointments

From 5 April 2015, expectant fathers and partners, including same sex, now have the right to take unpaid time off work to accompany expectant mothers to up to two antenatal appointments. The time off is capped at six and a half hours for each appointment and there is no qualifying period before employees can take up the new rights.

A “partner” includes the spouse or civil partner of the pregnant woman and a person, of either sex, in a long term relationship with her. The right applies whether the child is conceived naturally or through donor insemination.

It also extends to those who will become parents through a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to satisfy the conditions for, and plan to apply for a Parental Order for the child born through that arrangement.

Paternity Leave entitlement

To qualify for Paternity Leave you must be an employee. You must be taking the time off to support the mother or carer for the baby and will be fully involved in their upbringing. Rights to Paternity Leave are extra to your normal holiday allowance.

To qualify for Paternity Leave, you must have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks by:

  • the end of the 15th week before the start of the week when the baby is due
  • the end of the week you are notified you are matched with your child

You must also be one of the following:

  • biological father of the child
  • mother's husband or partner (including same-sex relationships)
  • child's adopter
  • husband or partner (including same-sex relationships) of the child's adopter

If you are a worker you will not qualify for Paternity Leave but may qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay.

If you are an agency worker, office holder or subcontractor, you will not normally have the right to Paternity Leave. But you might be eligible for Statutory Paternity Pay.  

Statutory Paternity Pay

Statutory Paternity Pay is paid for up to two consecutive weeks, depending on how long you choose to take Paternity Leave. To read more, go to:

If you don't qualify for Paternity Leave

If you don't qualify for Paternity Leave, your employer might give you some time off, or you could take paid holiday.

If you qualify for Paternity Leave but not Statutory Paternity Pay, you may qualify for Income Support while on Paternity Leave.

Length of Paternity Leave

As long as you meet certain conditions, you can take either one or two weeks' Paternity Leave. You can't take odd days off.  If you take two weeks, you must take consecutive weeks.

A week is based on your usual working pattern. If you only work Mondays and Tuesdays , a week would be two days .  If you work Monday to Friday, a week would be five days.

Taking your Paternity Leave

To qualify for Paternity Leave, you must tell your employer:

  • when the baby is due or when the child is expected to be placed with you for adoption
  • whether you want one or two weeks' Paternity Leave
  • when you want your Paternity Leave to start

You must give your employer the right amount of notice. You should tell them in writing:

  • at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week when the baby's due
  • within seven days of being told by the adoption agency that you have been matched with a child

To give your employer notice, you can fill in a 'self-certificate'. You can download form SC3 'Becoming a parent', which works as a self-certificate.

Your Paternity Leave can start on any day of the week (but not before the baby is born). It has to finish within 56 days of the baby's birth. If the baby is born before the week it was due, it must finish within 56 days of the first day of that week. You can start Paternity Leave after a period of parental leave has ended.

If your partner has a multiple birth, you are only allowed one period of Paternity Leave.

You should tell your employer the date of the birth or actual date of adoption placement in writing if your employer requests it. However, you do not have to give your employer any medical evidence of the pregnancy or birth to claim Paternity Leave or Pay.

Not giving the right amount of notice

If you can't give the full notice period to your employer for a valid reason you should still give as much notice as possible. A valid reason might be, for example, if the baby arrives early or the adoption agency doesn't give you long enough notice.

You may still qualify if you meet the other conditions or would have if your baby had not been born early. If there is no valid reason (for example you simply forgot) you will lose your entitlement.

Changing your start date

You can change the date that your Paternity Leave starts, as long as you give 28 days' notice.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

If your baby was due, or you adopted a child, on or after 5 April 2015, you and your partner could be able to enjoy shared rights to leave and pay. This can give you more flexibility and choice when considering your work and caring commitments during your child’s first year.

More information is available on the Shared Parental Leave and Pay page.

If you lose your baby

You can still take Paternity Leave if your child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or is born alive at any point of the pregnancy.

Paternity Leave and your employer

If you have a problem taking your Paternity Leave, talk to your employer. If this doesn't work, you may need to make a complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure.

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