What Paternity Rights do I Have?

What is Paternity Leave?

Paternity leave is leave from work that may be taken by a father whose partner/spouse has had a baby, or who has adopted a child or had a child through surrogacy. Fathers have statutory rights to take paternity leave under the Employment Act 2002, provided they satisfy various conditions.

In addition to statutory paternity leave, new fathers may also be entitled to more generous contractual paternity leave under the terms of their employment contract. Employees should check their contracts of employment. They may also be able to take advantage of shared parental leave rights.

Will paternity leave affect my statutory holiday allowance?

No, any statutory paternity leave taken will be in addition to your existing statutory holiday allowance.

Who is entitled to statutory paternity leave?

To be eligible for statutory paternity leave, you must be an employee with at least 26 weeks’ employment with your employer by the end of the 15th week before the beginning of the week when the baby’s due. A worker or an independent contractor is not eligible. An individual is an employee if they satisfy:

  • the ‘control’ test (the employer decides how the work should be carried out, and
  • the ‘integration test’ (the employee’s work is considered integral to the operation of the business), and
  • the ‘economic reality test’ (the employee does not assume any economic risk in their employment)

Employees must satisfy the following conditions to be eligible:

  • They must be the biological father of the child, or are the mother’s husband or partner (including a mother’s partner in a same-sex relationship), and
  • They must be fully involved in the child’s upbringing and are taking the time off to support the mother or care for the baby

What if my baby is adopted?

If you adopt a baby you may also be eligible to take paternity leave and be eligible for statutory paternity pay.

How much notice is required?

You must give your employer at least 15 days’ notice before the week in which the baby is due to be born. This notice must be in writing and must stipulate the following:

  • When the baby is due
  • If you wish to take one or two weeks leave
  • When you wish the leave to commence

How much paternity leave can I take?

You can take either one week or two weeks’ paternity leave. You cannot, however, take single days off, and if you take two weeks – you must take them in a complete block.

When can I start paternity leave?

You have three options:

  • You can take leave from the day the baby is born (or the date of adoption placement)
  • You can take leave at some point after the baby is born (but it must be within 56 days of birth)
  • You can take leave from a specific date after the first day of the week in which the baby is expected to be born

Will I get paid?

You may be entitled to statutory paternity pay. You may, in fact, be entitled to more generous terms under the terms of your employment, so you must check your contract of employment and talk to your employer.

Will I get statutory paternity pay?

Statutory paternity pay (SPP) is available if you earn at least the Lowest Earning Limit (LEL) for National Insurance Contributions. The LEL is currently £113 a week (2017-2018). If you earn less than the LEL you will be entitled to take unpaid paternity leave (you may be entitled to assistance through income support).

How much am I entitled to be paid?

If you earn at least the LEL for National Insurance Contributions you will be eligible to receive SPP, which is currently at £140.98 per week (April 2017). If you earn less than £140.98 per week, you will be entitled to be paid 90% of your standard weekly wage. You will still be required to pay tax and national insurance contributions in the same way as an employee.

The rate of maternity allowance is subject to an annual review by the Department of Work and Pensions in April.

Shared Parental Leave

In addition to paternity leave, eligible parents can choose how to share time off after the birth or adoption of the child. This allows a great deal of flexibility in how the parents can share the care of the baby in the first year.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

Lucy on LinkedIn

Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.