Paternity rights: What is he entitled to?

What dad is entitled to...

When you and your partner start a family, the dad-to-be is usually entitled to paid time off work.

 Here’s a quick guide to what he should get.


Time off for hands-on-dads

Times have moved on since dads kept a distance from babies - pacing around in the waiting room during labour, wetting the baby’s head down the pub and heading straight back to work the next day. Now most dads want to be more hands-on, cutting the cord, enjoying skin-to-skin bonding time and helping with those hundreds of baby-related jobs.

So these days, partners can usually take a week or two off work when the baby’s first born, and even a longer stretch if they want to when the mum returns to work. Some family-friendly employers offer their own pay and terms when it comes to paternity leave, so it’s worth asking yours to check. Here’s the lowdown on what men are legally entitled to claim...

What is paternity leave?

If you are employed you may be entitled to one to two weeks’ paid Paternity Leave (PL) when your baby is born, if you meet the qualifying conditions. You have the right to return to exactly the same job. It's important to give your employer the correct notice in order to qualify for paternity leave. You are not entitled to longer for a multiple birth. If you are looking to take more time off you can look into shared parental leave (SPL) or unpaid Parental Leave.

When can I take it?

Paternity leave can be taken one week or two weeks in a row but not odd days or two separate weeks. It must be taken within 56 days of the birth. If the baby is born before the expected week, paternity leave can be taken any time from the actual date of birth up to 56 days from the date the baby would have been due.

When can it start?

Paternity leave can start on any day of the week.
You can choose to start your leave on:
the day the baby is born, or
a fixed number of days/weeks after the birth, or
a fixed date after the day the baby is due.

If you choose to start your leave on the day the baby is born and you are at work that day, your leave will start the following day.

Will I qualify?

To qualify for paternity leave you need to be:

  • Employed by your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due or, if the baby is born before then, you would have worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due.
  • Employed by the same employer up to the birth (for PL) and up to the week before the start of your leave.
  • The biological father or the mother’s husband or partner (including same sex partners).
  • Responsible for the child and be taking time off to care for the child or support the mother.

What if I don’t qualify?

If you don’t qualify for Paternity Leave, your employer may still give your partner some time off, or you could take paid holiday.

If I want to take shared parental leave, when can I take it?

You can take shared parental leave (SPL) at any time from the end of your paternity leave up to your little one's first birthday. You can take SPL at the same time as the mother or separately, providing the mother reduces her maternity leave or returns to work early. Does this way, it can create up to a maximum of 50 weeks’ SPL and 37 weeks’ Statutory Shared Parental Pay.

Will I be paid for paternity/shared parternity leave?

Check your contract or talk to your employer to clarify but some employers offer fully or partially paid parental leave. Otherwise, you may qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) or Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) which are both paid at the rate of £151.97 per week or 90% of average earnings less if that is less.

Need to complain?

If your employer isn't playing ball, you should take action:

  • talk to your employer and make sure you get a written explanation
  • make a formal complaint, or speak to your trade union or employees’ rep if you have one
  • call HM Revenue & Customs employee's enquiry line on 0845 302 1479 for advice

For detailed information visit MoneyHelper, or the government’s website.

Paternity rights: What is he entitled to?