When it gets nearer to the time of the birth of your baby, new dads want to know how they can be involved and support the mum-to-be. Here, we look at everything new dads need to know about statutory paternity leave, what it is, and all the extra info you need, such as paternity pay. 

At bloss, we help you make the most of this life-changing time.

What is paternity leave? 

Paternity leave is a special authorised absence from work in the early days following the birth of your baby. It’s not just there for new dads, but can actually be taken by the partner of the mother-to-be.

Paternity leave can be taken by an adopter or when a baby is born from surrogacy too. Here we use ‘new dads’ as shorthand, but really, it’s important to remember that paternity leave is there for the primary supporter of the mother, or the person who will be in the second parental role for the newborn. 

Paternity leave is there for two main reasons: to bond with the little one and help with their care, and to support the new mother.

In the UK, there is statutory paternity leave. This is the legal entitlement for time off after the birth.

So, how does paternity leave work?

How much paternity leave are fathers entitled to in the UK?

First, let’s look at how long paternity leave is. New dads are entitled to up to two consecutive weeks of paternity leave. However, this does depend on how long you’ve been working for your employer and that you meet eligibility criteria. Rules are different for adopters. 

Regardless of whether you have a newborn singleton or multiples, statutory paternity leave stays the same. In addition, new dads are entitled to time off for two antenatal appointments. 

During statutory paternity leave, your employment rights are protected. This means that things like your holiday allowance will continue to accrue, and you cannot miss out on things like pay rises or promotions because of it.

As a new dad, you’re eligible for paternity leave as long as you’ve worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week your baby is due. That can sound quite complicated, so it’s always worth getting HR or your line manager to check your dates.

Many employers go beyond the basic rules for paternity leave, and also for paternity pay, so do check out your company’s specific policy to see if they offer enhanced benefits. 

If you need more time off than paternity leave allows, you’ll need to look at other options including unpaid statutory parental leave (up to 18 weeks to be used by the time the child is 18) and Shared Parental Leave (up to 50 weeks and 37 weeks of pay between parents following the birth). If you’re unsure how you and your partner can best use your time off allowances and secure your careers, you may be interested in Parental Leave Coaching.

Is paternity leave paid?

Of course, while becoming a new dad is one of the most exciting times in a parent’s life, it can also be one of the most expensive times too. You’ll need to know if your paternity leave is paid.

By law, if you are eligible for statutory paternity leave, you’ll be entitled to paternity pay as long as you earn more than £123 per week. Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) is paid by the government at a fixed rate or 90% of your average earnings (using whichever is lowest). In reality, paternity leave pay is usually well below your usual earnings. As such, you will need to budget to take this time off. Some employers, again, offer more. 

Check your company’s paternity pay policy to see if they offer more than the statutory amounts. Paternity leave is paid by your employer and is subject to tax and National Insurance.

Can I get self-employed paternity leave?

Currently, there’s no UK equivalent of statutory paternity pay for those who are self-employed, unlike with maternity allowance. This also means that most contractors and agency workers aren’t entitled to paternity leave either. 

If you are self-employed and soon to be a new dad, you’ll need to make your own arrangements to balance your income with any time off you have when your baby is born. 

How can you take paternity leave?

Paternity leave is a standalone leave allowance. This means that it is in addition to any holiday allowance, or even parental leave. However, you have to take it as either one or two whole weeks. If you take two weeks, these must be consecutive.

You must notify your employer in plenty of time of your intention to take paternity leave and to claim SPP. You must do this at least 15 weeks before the baby is due. If you are adopting then this again is different, and you will need to tell your employer either 28 days before you want your paternity leave to start, or within seven days of the adoption agency telling you of the match.

When does paternity leave start?

You’re not allowed to start paternity leave before your baby is born. If you need time off to support the pregnant mother shortly before the birth, you’ll need to make other arrangements. For example, you may be able to use unpaid Emergency Leave if she is unwell and needs to be taken to hospital. 

You can take paternity leave immediately after the birth, or at any point as such that it ends within 56 days of the birth. This is a little different if your baby is born premature. In this case, you must have completed your paternity leave within 56 days of the due date.

Who qualifies for paternity leave?

As stated at the beginning, it’s not just new biological dads who qualify for paternity leave. You’re also eligible if you are the child’s adopter or intended parent (in the case of surrogacy). If you are the baby’s mother’s partner, husband, or wife, you also qualify for paternity leave.

Learn more with bloss

Navigating the days of new parenthood and balancing your career can be tricky. Learn more by checking out other informative articles on bloss.