Paternity rights

There’s been an increased focus on dads’ involvement in childcare since Shared Parental Leave came into effect in April 2015.

Under Shared Parental Leave, parents can share the year after a baby is born or adopted following the two compulsory weeks after the birth of a baby. A mother can be on maternity leave while a father is on SPL, but they are only entitled to one lot of Statutory SPL pay. To qualify you need to have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or by the date you’re matched with your adopted child) and stay with the same employer while you take SPL.

Employers must be given at least eight weeks’ notice of SPL. Each eligible employee can give their employer up to three separate notices. Each notice can be for a block of leave, or the notice may be for a pattern of “discontinuous” leave involving different periods of leave. If a parent asks for discontinuous blocks of leave in a notification the employer can refuse and require that the total weeks of leave in the notice to be taken in a single continuous block.

Other rights for dads whose partner is having a baby, who are adopting or who are having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement are:

– Statutory paternity leave – one or two weeks of paid leave [you can choose] to be taken in one block after a child is born or an adoption placement begins and for birth parents it must be taken within 56 days of the birth or, in adoption cases, of the placement or arrival of a child from overseas. If you only work part time a week would not be five days, but the number of days you actually work in a week. You don’t have to give a precise date in advance of the birth of a child, but if you want to change the start time you need to give 28 days notice. This can be taken in addition to SPL.

– Additional paternity leave – if a child was due or placed for adoption before 5 April 2015 when SPL came in you may be able to get between two and 26 weeks of APL, dependent on how much of the mum’s maternity leave is left when she returns to work. Dads can only get APL if their partner returns to work. Your employer must confirm start and end dates and you must take the leave before the child is one year old and at least 20 weeks after the placement, birth or arrival in the UK. You must give six weeks’ notice if you wish to change start or end dates.

Employment rights, such as the right to any pay rises and holiday, are protected on paternity leave. Dads also get paid time off to attend two ante-natal appointments or adoption meetings of up to six hours each after they’ve been matched with a child. You can apply for leave to attend these appointments as soon as you start a new permanent job or 12 weeks or more if you are an agency worker.

You will be entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay while you are on paternity or additional paternity leave. This is £139.58, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). It is subject to tax and National Insurance deductions. Your organisation may choose to enhance that so check their policy.

To qualify for Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay you need to have worked for your employer for 26 weeks before the birth or the placement/arrival of an adopted child in the UK. You also need to inform your employer at least 15 weeks before the birth or matching date/arrival in the UK of your child and provide appropriate forms. For APL, you must inform your employer at least eight weeks’ notice of when you want to take leave and provide the appropriate form.

In cases of surrogacy, the same rules apply as for Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay. In addition, your employer may ask for a written statement to confirm you intend to apply for a parental order within six months after the child’s birth. You must sign this in the presence of a legal professional.

You may also qualify for unpaid parental leave. This entitles parents to up to 18 weeks’ leave for each child and adopted child up to their 18th birthday. Each parent can take up to four weeks of unpaid leave in a year for each child. This must be taken in whole weeks rather than individual days unless your employer agrees otherwise or if your child is disabled. You don’t have to take all the leave at once. To qualify you must have been employed by an organisation for over a year and be named as having parental responsibility or be on the birth or adoption certificate of the child. The policy does not apply to foster parents, the self employed or agency workers/contractors. You must give 21 days’ notice. Employers can delay a request for sound business reasons, but must suggest an alternative start date and cannot change the amount of leave requested.

In emergencies, employees can get a reasonable amount of time off for family and dependants. This cannot be for something you knew about before, eg, a hospital appointment. Your employer may pay you for time off to look after dependants, but they don’t have to. If you aren’t given time off for dependants, you may be entitld to ‘compassionate leave’ which can be paid or unpaid.

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