Becoming a father is one of the biggest milestones in a man's life. So it’s completely natural to want to spend as much time as you can with your newborn.
But, like many expectant fathers, you might be worrying about what to do about work in the first few weeks of your baby’s life. You may be wondering whether you’re entitled to paternity leave, how much leave you’ll get and if you will still get paid while you are off work.
You’ll be pleased to know, then, that in the UK, statutory paternity leave was introduced in 2003 to enable fathers to spend time with their partners and new babies around the time of birth. Fathers who are adopting a child or having a baby through surrogacy are also entitled to paternity leave.
This article explains everything you need to know about taking time off work as a new father. Some of the topics we cover include the different types of parenting leave that fathers are entitled to, how much Statutory Paternity Pay you can expect to get and what the options are for self-employed people.
In the UK, Statutory Paternity Leave is up to two consecutive weeks, but you will only be able to get the full entitlement if you have been in the same job for 26 weeks by the fifteenth week before the week that your baby is due.
Your employer may allow you to take more time off than this, and you are also entitled to take time off to attend two antenatal appointments (of up to six and a half hours each) with your partner.
Continue reading to find out about paternity leave in more detail.
If you’re employed, you will be entitled to up to two weeks of paternity leave, depending on how long you’ve been in your job. As stated above, you will be entitled to the full two weeks if you’ve worked for the same employer for 26 weeks by the fifteenth week before your baby is due. A week of paternity leave is equal to your normal working week, which means you’ll get up to ten days’ paid leave if you work Monday to Friday, but only six days’ paid leave if you only work Tuesday to Thursday.
Your paternity leave is in addition to your normal holiday allowance, but it must be taken as a whole week or consecutive weeks. It can’t start before the baby is born, and it must end within 56 days of the birth (or the baby’s due date if it is premature).
While on paternity leave, your employment rights will be protected, including your right to pay raises and the accrual of holiday allowance.
Note that you won’t normally be entitled to paternity leave if you are an agency or contract worker.
There are four types of paid parenting leave in the UK:
- Maternity Leave
- Paternity Leave
- Adoption Leave
- Shared Parental Leave
If you’re an expectant father, you can apply for paternity leave, adoption leave or Shared Parental Leave.
How does adoption leave work?
If you’re an employee and you’re adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement, you may be entitled to 52 weeks Statutory Adoption Leave. Statutory Adoption Pay mirrors maternity pay in that you are paid 90 per cent of your salary for the first six weeks, followed by 33 weeks at the statutory rate. To qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay, you must have been working for the same employer for 26 weeks by the end of the week in which you were notified of being matched with a child.
Your leave must start on or up to 14 days before the placement date, and if the placement fails, you must return to work eight weeks after the end of the placement or at the end of your adoption leave (whichever is earlier).
Note that if you’re adopting with your partner, only one of you will be able to get adoption leave. However, the other may be entitled to paternity or Shared Parental Leave.
How does Shared Parental Leave work?
You may be entitled to Shared Parental Leave if you have a partner. This type of leave allows you and your partner to share up to 50 weeks of parental leave and 37 weeks of pay. Providing your employer agrees, you can take your leave in up to three separate blocks instead of all at once.
To qualify for Shared Parental Leave, your partner must have worked for at least 26 weeks and earned at least £390 in 13 of the 66 weeks before the baby is due or the week you are matched with your adopted child. Your partner must also give notice to end their maternity leave, and as long as they’ve done this, you can start your leave while they are still on theirs.
You may also qualify for Statutory Shared Parental Pay if you are an employee or worker, you’re entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay, and your partner is entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay or Maternity Allowance.
If you are entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay, it will be paid by the government at a rate of £156.66 per week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
If your employer has a company paternity scheme, you could get more pay, but they are not allowed to offer you less than the statutory amount.
You can check how much paternity pay you might be entitled to using the government’s Maternity, Adoption and Paternity Calculator. However, to give you an idea of what you could receive, here are some examples:
You earn £150 per week. 90 per cent of your weekly earnings is £135. This means you will receive £135 paternity pay per week.
You earn £300 per week. 90 per cent of your weekly earnings is £270. This means you will receive the set rate of £156.66 per week.
Not everyone will be eligible for paternity leave. To qualify, you must be taking the time off in order to look after the child, and you must be either:
- The biological father of the child
- The adopter of the child
- The husband or partner of the mother or adopter (this includes same-sex partners)
- The intended parent if you are having a baby through surrogacy
You must also be an employee and have at least 26 weeks of continuous service with the same employer before any day in the ‘qualifying week’ (the fifteenth week before the baby is due or, for UK adoptions, the end of the week that you’re matched with a child) and give the correct notice (at least 15 weeks before the baby is due or if you’re adopting, 28 days before you want your paternity leave to start or within seven days of being matched with a child).
To qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay, you must earn at least £123 per week before tax and continue working in the same job until the child is born or placed with you.
The steps you need to take to claim paternity leave differ slightly, depending on whether you are the biological father, you’re using a surrogate, or if you’re adopting:
If you are the biological father
- Inform your employer that you wish to take paternity leave at least 15 weeks before the baby is due.
- Fill in this online form (previously called form SC3) or use your employer’s own form.
- Give the completed form to your employer.
When filling in the form, you’ll need to include the baby’s due date, state when you want your leave to start and confirm whether you want to take one or two weeks of paternity leave.
If you are the adoptive father or intended father in a surrogacy arrangement
- Inform your employer that you wish to take paternity leave at least 28 days before you want your leave to start or within seven days of being matched with a child for adoption.
- Fill in form SC4.
- Give the completed form to your employer.
There are no official rules about extending your paternity leave, and in certain situations, such as issues that arise after birth, you may wish to take more time off to be with your child.
If you do want to take additional paternity leave, it would have to be under an informal agreement with your employer. Depending on your situation, they may make exceptions and grant you extra time off, as paid or unpaid leave.
It’s worth mentioning here that you have additional rights to parental leave as the child grows up. Provided you’ve been with your employer for at least a year, you can get up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Because this type of leave has to be taken in week-long blocks, it is best used for dealing with serious issues rather than last-minute problems with childcare.
If you are self-employed, you can take as much paternity leave as you like, but you won’t be entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay, so you will need to work out how long you can afford to take off work. When deciding this, remember to consider that your partner may be on a reduced rate of pay while they are on leave themselves.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to start saving for your paternity leave as soon as you find out about the pregnancy or you decide to adopt. It’s advisable to save around five per cent of your monthly income for each week of paternity leave you plan to take.
While Statutory Paternity Leave is up to two weeks and you get either £156.66 per week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, Statutory Maternity Leave is up to 52 weeks, and mothers get 90 per cent of their salary for the first six weeks and then the minimum statutory rate for 33 weeks after that.
Statutory Maternity Leave is made up of two parts: Ordinary Maternity Leave, which lasts for 26 weeks and Additional Maternity Leave, which lasts for another 26 weeks. Compulsory Maternity Leave is a two-week period (or four-week period if the mother works in a factory or similar environment) which forms part of Ordinary Maternity Leave and must be taken in the weeks immediately following the baby’s birth.
Expectant mothers can take Statutory Maternity Leave up to 11 weeks before the baby’s due date. If the baby is born prematurely, before the mother has started their leave, they must start it the day after the baby is born.
To be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave, the mother must have been employed by their employer for at least 26 continuous weeks by the fifteenth week before the baby’s due date, and they must notify their employer that they are pregnant by the end of the fifteenth week before their due date.
If you are employed, you will be entitled to up to two weeks paternity leave, provided you have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks by the fifteenth week before your baby is due. You can also attend two six-and-a-half-hour antenatal appointments with your partner. Statutory Paternity Pay is paid by the government at a rate of £156.66 per week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
Your paternity leave is in addition to your normal holiday allowance, but it must be taken as a whole week or consecutive weeks. It can’t start before the baby is born, and it must end within 56 days of the birth (or the baby’s due date if it is born prematurely).