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Paternity Leave in the UK: Everything You Need To Know

May 10, 2023

Leave and time off are not some optional extras your company needs. They are essential factors for nurturing a thriving team. And when it comes to leave, paternity leave is right at the top.

For example, a staggering 82% of men who participated in a PL+US survey felt that everyone should have access to paid time off for a new baby. This sentiment resonates with 69% of participants in a Pew Research Center study who emphasized the importance of paid time off for fathers.

As an employer, you need to understand the various paternity leave laws in all the countries where you have team members if you’re going to create an environment that supports the personal and professional growth of your workforce.

Below, we go over everything you need to know about paternity leave in the UK, from the laws surrounding paternity leave and how much time employees can take off work to your responsibilities as an employer. 

Paternity Leave Laws in the UK

Under UK law, employees are entitled to statutory paternity leave to spend time with their newborn children. Eligible employees may take either one or two weeks off. However, even if the employee's partner has a multiple birth, such as twins or triplets, the leave duration remains the same.

To be eligible for paternity leave, an employee must be the child’s:

  • Biological father
  • Adopter or intended parent (if the employee is having a child through a surrogacy arrangement)
  • Mother’s husband or partner (including same-sex partners)

The employee must also have worked for a company for at least 26 consecutive weeks by the ‘matching week.’ The matching week is one of the following:

  • The end of the 15th week preceding the expected week of birth.
  • The end of the week when an employee is matched with a child for adoption (for UK adoptions).
  • The date the child arrives in the UK (for overseas adoptions)

To apply for paternity leave, fathers or partners must inform their employer in writing at least 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. They must also show proof of eligibility, such as an adoption certificate. Employers may also create their own application procedures, which employees have to adhere to. 

What Paternity Leave Benefits Do Employees Get?

In the UK, being eligible for statutory paternity leave doesn’t automatically qualify an employee for pay. To get paid leave, an employee must meet all the criteria highlighted above, and more. The employee:

  • Should be on the employer’s payroll, earning at least £123 a week before tax.
  • Must be classified as an employee
  • Must continue to work for the employer until the child is born or placed with them, in the case of adoption.
  • Should be taking time off to care for their child and partner.

Statutory paternity pay is the lesser of £172.48 per week or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings. To claim this pay, an employee must provide the correct notice.

This means that the employee must notify their employer of their intention to take leave and request pay at least 15 weeks before the expected delivery date. If an employee is adopting, they must notify their employer either 28 days before the start date of their pay or within seven days of being matched with a child.

Paternity Leave Conditions in the UK

Here are some important things to remember when an employee requests or takes paternity leave:

  • All the leave must be taken in one go.
  • Paternity leave can’t begin before the child is born and must end within 56 days of the child’s birth.
  • An employee must provide a general idea of when they will be off, but not an exact date.
  • If an employee wishes to change the start of their leave, they must give 28 days’ notice.
  • A week of leave is the same number of days an employee normally works in a week. For instance, if an employee works only three days per week, their week off work is three days.

Employee Rights During Leave

When an employee is on paternity leave, their employment rights are protected under UK law. This includes an employee's right to accrued time off, pay increases, a return to work once leave is completed, and any other benefits to which the employee is entitled.

In addition, an employee can take time off to accompany their partner to two antenatal appointments. When adopting, an employee can take two days off after being matched with a child to attend two adoption appointments.

Eligible employees may also qualify for shared parental leave and pay, which allows them to share up to 50 weeks of parental leave and 37 weeks of pay with their partners.

The eligibility criteria for shared parental leave are the same as those for statutory paternity leave, with two additions: 

  • The employee's partner must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks preceding the baby's expected week of delivery; and 
  • They must have earned at least £390 in total in 13 of those 66 weeks.

Both the work duration and the earnings do not have to be consecutive.

Why Is Paternity Leave Important?

Paternity leave is beneficial both to employers and employees. For example, it allows employees to bond with their newborns and support their partners. According to one study, giving fathers two or more weeks of paternity leave helps strengthen family relationships.

Taking paternity leave can also improve the father's mental health and wellbeing. Research has shown that fathers who take paternity leave have less stress and anxiety and a more positive outlook on their family life. Leave also allows fathers to take a break from work and focus on their families, which results in a better work-life balance and reduced risk of burnout.

On the business front, companies can enjoy increased employee engagement, productivity, and retention with paternity leave. In one UK study, researchers discovered that fathers who received benefits such as paid leave and flexible work were more likely to stay with their employer and remain more engaged.

Let Remofirst Help You Handle Employees’ Leave The Easy Way

Handling paternity leave and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations can be relatively simple for businesses with employees in a single location.

However, this is unlikely to be the case when you have a team spread across the globe. You'll need to stay up to date with regulations in each country where you have employees, and this can quickly become complicated and tedious once you start delving into all the different laws and compliance requirements.

If you have a global team, it’s a good idea to partner with an EOR like Remofirst. An EOR will handle all your workforce management, including providing paternity leave to employees while adhering to all applicable laws.

This country guide provides more information on how Remofirst can help you take care of your employees and provide time off that meets UK requirements.