A guide to paternity leave and pay

All qualifying employees, who’ve been with you for at least 26 continuous weeks by the end of the 15th week before their child’s expected week of childbirth, are entitled to statutory paternity rights.

Not sure what they are? In this free guide, we cover everything from paternity rights and notification rules, to ante-natal appointments and paternity leave and pay.

The law on paternity leave

The law on paternity leave in the UK is simple – if an employee who meets the qualifying criteria is a partner to a person having a baby or adopting a child, then you as an employer have to give them the right leave and pay entitlements for employees on statutory paternity leave.


Statutory paternity leave

Paternity leave is different from annual leave and unpaid parental leave and gives new parents time off to look after the new additions to their family throughout the first couple of months. 

This should be given to qualifying employees who have:

  • Been with you for at least 26 continuous weeks by the end of the 15th week before their child’s expected week of childbirth or when the adopter is notified of having been matched with a child. 

They also have to be:

  • Responsible for the upbringing of that child and the biological father of the child, or married to, the civil partner of, or the “partner” of the mother. 
  • In the case of adoption, the employee must be married to, or be the civil partner of, the person who is the adopter.


What is the paternity leave entitlement for qualified employees? 

Paternity leave has to start and finish 56 days after the birth of the child. If the child was born before the first day of the expected week of birth, it will still start 56 days after the first day of the expected week of birth. 

With adoption, paternity starts and finishes during a 56-day period, beginning with the date the child is placed with the adopter. 

Paternity leave is either one week or two consecutive weeks of leave – it’s up to the employee. The amount of time off doesn’t change if they have or adopt twins or more than one child.  

For qualifying employees,  statutory paternity pay is either £172.38 or 90% of the employee’s annual weekly earnings, depending on which is lower. The conditions of entitlement to statutory paternity pay aren’t the same as paternity leave. Those who wish to claim statutory paternity pay:


  • don’t need to have the status of employee but have to have been in “employed earner’s employment” with the employer they’re claiming statutory paternity pay from
  • must have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks, ending with the week immediately before the 14th week before the expected week of the child’s birth, or;
  • in the case of adoption, the week in which the adopter is notified of being matched with the child.


As well as this:


  • the person claiming statutory paternity pay has to stay in that employment until the day the child is born or placed for adoption, and;
  • satisfy the same conditions as paternity leave in terms of the relationship between the child and the mother or the adopter 
  • they also have to have average weekly earnings equal to or more than the “lower earnings limit” during the eight weeks before the 14th week prior to the child’s expected birth, or the week the adopter learns they’re matched with the child.


What qualifies an employee for statutory paternity paid leave?

While we cover the specifics in our free guide, here’s a taster. A qualified employee for statutory paternity leave includes employees who: 

  • have or expect to have responsibility for the upbringing of the child
  • be either the biological father of the child or married to, or the civil partner or partner (male or female) of the child’s mother, or be married to, or the civil partner or the partner of the person who is the adopter.


Can employees attend antenatal appointments?

Qualified employees are entitled to unpaid time off to attend a maximum of two antenatal appointments with the mother, and on each occasion, the maximum time off during working hours is six and a half hours.

While you’re under no legal obligation to pay employees attending these appointments, there’s nothing stopping you from paying them their full wages. However, it’s important to be consistent and if you do this for one employee and not another it may leave you open to challenges in the future.


Can I claim back employees’ Statutory Paternity Pay? 

 An employer may be able to reclaim up to 92% of any Paternity Leave Pay.


Download our free paternity leave pay guide 

This is just the start of understanding paternity leave and pay – our free guide takes you into more detail on everything you need to know as an employer, including antenatal appointments, record keeping, and who has paternity rights. Download your free copy today by filling in the form on this page.

You can also discover more about shared paternity leave in our blog post.


Download your guide!

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