Paternity leave is a period of either one or two consecutive weeks that fathers can take off from work to care for their child.
Employees whose partner is having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement may be entitled to paternity leave and pay.
Who is entitled to paternity leave?
It is available to employees who:
- have an aspect in the child’s upbringing;
- are the biological father of the child, the mother’s husband or partner (including same sex relationships) or the partner of the primary adopter;
- have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks and meet the criteria below:
- ending with the 15th week before the baby is due;
- the end of the week in which the adopted child agreement is reached;
- the date the child enters the UK.
Taking paternity leave
An employee can choose when they wish to take their leave. It can be on the day the baby is born, sometime after the baby is born or on a specific date but not earlier than the baby is due. Leave needs to be taken within 56 days of the birth date of the child.
Babies rarely arrive on the exact due date so employers need to be prepared to be flexible over paternity leave requests.
Adoptions and surrogacy
When adopting, one partner can take adoption leave and the other may be entitled to paternity leave.
Leave can start on the date the adoption commences or an agreed number of days after. In the case of an adoption from overseas, then it can commence on the day the child arrives in the UK. For surrogacy the rules are the same as for a birth.
If an employee is entitled to paternity pay he will receive £148.68 per week. An employer may opt to offer a higher rate than the statutory amount. The amount and length for which it is paid should be set out in the terms and conditions of employment. Contractual paternity pay cannot be lower than the statutory rate.
Agency workers do not usually qualify for paternity leave but they may qualify for paternity pay if they meet the qualifying criteria. They are, however, entitled to attend two unpaid antenatal appointments once they have completed a twelve week qualifying period with the agency.
Antenatal or adoption appointments
Fathers and partners are entitled to unpaid time off during working hours to accompany the mother to two antenatal appointments. There is no legal right to paid time off for attending antenatal appointments. However, an employee’s contract of employment may entitle them to the time off with pay.
The same applies for adoption appointments.
An employee’s rights are protected during paternity leave. For example the right to pay, to accrue holiday and the right to return to your job after paternity leave with the same terms and conditions.
This is only a brief outline of the law on paternity leave. For more information if you are an employer or employee please get in touch with our employment team.
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