Paternity leave explained – Guide for UK employers with your FAQs

Paternity leave is an essential consideration for UK employers, offering fathers the opportunity to take time off from work to care for their newborn or adopted child. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of paternity leave entitlements in the UK, including eligibility criteria, duration, and pay, alongside answers to frequently asked questions that employers may have.


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Understanding paternity leave in the UK

Paternity leave in the UK is designed to offer fathers, partners, and adopters the opportunity to spend time with their new child, supporting their partner or coping with the adoption process. It’s crucial for employers to understand the rules and regulations around paternity leave to ensure they are compliant with UK employment law and to support their employees effectively during this significant life event.

Eligibility for paternity leave

To be eligible for paternity leave, an employee must:

  • Be the biological father of the child, the partner of the child’s mother, or an adopter.
  • Have worked for their employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date, or by the week they are matched with an adopted child.
  • Be responsible for the child’s upbringing and be taking the time off to support the mother or care for the child.

Duration and pay

Eligible employees are entitled to one or two consecutive weeks of paternity leave. This leave can’t start before the child’s birth and must end within 56 days after the birth or adoption. Paternity leave is paid at the statutory paternity pay rate or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. The rate is subject to change, so it’s important to check the current rate on the UK Government’s official website.

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How to claim paternity leave

Employees must inform their employers of their intention to take paternity leave by the 15th week before the baby is due, or within seven days of being matched with an adopted child. They need to specify the expected week of childbirth or adoption, whether they wish to take one or two weeks’ leave, and their chosen start date.

FAQ – Paternity leave guide

What if an employee is not eligible for paternity leave?

Employees who are not eligible for paternity leave may still be entitled to take unpaid leave to attend antenatal appointments or adoption meetings.

Can employees change the start date of their paternity leave?

Yes, employees can change the start date of their paternity leave, provided they give the correct notice to their employer.

What happens if the baby is born early?

If the baby is born early, paternity leave starts the day after the birth, as long as the employee has given the required notice.

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Are there any circumstances where paternity leave can be extended?

Statutory paternity leave cannot be extended beyond two weeks. However, employers may offer more generous leave arrangements.

Can paternity leave be taken in separate blocks?

No, paternity leave must be taken in one go and cannot be split into separate blocks.

How does paternity leave affect holiday entitlement?

Paternity leave does not affect an employee’s statutory holiday entitlement. Employees continue to accrue holiday during paternity leave.

Is there support available for employers?

Yes, the UK Government provides guidance and support for employers managing paternity leave and pay. Employers can also seek advice from HR professionals or legal advisors to ensure compliance with employment law.

Can paternity leave be taken before the baby is born?

No, paternity leave cannot start before the birth of the baby. It can start on the day of the birth, a chosen number of days or weeks after the birth, or from a specific date after the first day of the week in which the baby is due.

How does shared parental leave interact with paternity leave?

Shared parental leave allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay if they meet eligibility criteria. Parents can choose to end paternity leave and pay (or maternity leave and pay) early and opt for shared parental leave and pay, giving them flexibility to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work.

Are self-employed fathers entitled to paternity leave?

Self-employed fathers do not qualify for statutory paternity leave or pay. However, they may be eligible for Maternity Allowance if they meet certain conditions, which their partner can claim if they’re not working or self-employed.

Can an employee work during paternity leave?

No, employees cannot work for their employer during their paternity leave. However, they can agree to work up to 20 days during shared parental leave without losing any shared parental leave or pay. These days are known as “Shared Parental Leave In Touch” (SPLIT) days.

What documentation is required to claim paternity leave?

Employees must provide their employer with a completed SC3 form or their employer’s equivalent, detailing when they want their paternity leave and pay to start and confirming their eligibility.

How do adoption and surrogacy affect paternity leave?

For adoptive parents, paternity leave is available to the partner of the primary adopter. In surrogacy arrangements, the intended parents may be eligible for paternity leave if they meet the criteria for a parental order and intend to apply for one.

What happens in the event of a stillbirth or infant loss?

If a baby is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or dies after birth, the father or partner is still eligible for paternity leave and, if applicable, paternity pay, provided they meet the other eligibility criteria.

Can employees be dismissed for taking paternity leave?

No, it is unlawful to dismiss an employee or treat them unfairly for taking paternity leave. Such action could lead to claims for unfair dismissal or discrimination.

How does paternity leave affect pension contributions?

Employers must continue to make pension contributions based on the employee’s usual earnings before paternity leave, even though the employee might be receiving less pay during their leave.

What are the notice requirements if an employee wants to change their return date?

If an employee wants to change their return to work date, they must give their employer at least 28 days’ notice before the date they had initially planned to return or the new date they want to return, whichever is earlier.

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