Are you sure you’re up to speed on paternity leave? Paternity leave and pay is a statutory right, meaning employers can face a claim in an employment tribunal if they don’t allow an employee to take leave, or pay them the correct amount whilst they’re on leave. Here we share the essentials you need to know as an employer.

Statutory paternity leave

Employees are entitled to one or two consecutive weeks (their choice) of leave within 56 days of the birth or adoption of their child, to take care of the new addition to their family. A week is classed as the number of days an employee works in a week. This is the minimum paternity leave the government requires you to provide, you are free as an employer to enhance this as you wish.

Paternity leave entitlement

To be eligible for paternity leave, the employee must:

  • be classed as an employee (not a worker or self-employed)
  • have been continuously employed by you for no less than 26 weeks
  • be the child’s biological father, adopter or intended parent
  • have responsibility for the child’s upbringing
  • have not taken shared parental leave for the same child
  • provide you with the required notice

Taking paternity leave

Employees can choose to take either one week or two consecutive weeks’ leave. (If the birth is of twins or multiples, the same amount of time applies)

Leave cannot start before the birth. The start date must be either the actual date of birth, an agreed number of days after the birth or an agreed number of days after the expected week of childbirth. Leave must finish within 56 days of the birth (or the due date if the baby is early).

Paternity leave when adopting

An employee adopting a child must have been continuously employed by you for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the week they were matched with a child (for UK adoptions) Or for overseas adoptions, have been continuously employed by you for at least 26 weeks by either the date the child arrives in the UK or when they want their pay to start.

Start and end dates of paternity leave are different if adopting. Leave can start on the day of placement, on an agreed number of days after placement, or for overseas adoptions on the date the child arrives in the UK or on an agreed number of days after this.

Statutory paternity pay

This is the minimum amount you can pay your employees by law if they have worked in your business continuously for more than 26 weeks, ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

The statutory weekly rate of paternity pay is either £156.66 a week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Tax and National Insurance need to be deducted and pay should be paid in the same way as their usual wages.

To qualify for this pay your employee must:

  • be employed by you up to the date the child is born, or placed with the adopter
  • be on your payroll and earn at least £123 a week (gross) in an 8 week ‘relevant period’
  • if they are adopting they must provide proof of adoption, which can be a letter from their adoption agency or their matching certificate. You must keep a record of this proof.

Some employment types, like agency workers, contract workers, directors and educational workers, have different rules for entitlement.

As an employer, you can often reclaim up to 92% of an employee’s paternal pay. If eligible for Small Employers’ Relief, you can reclaim up to 103% back.  To reclaim payments, include them in your Employer Payment Summary (EPS) that you submit to HMRC.

Enhanced paternity leave or pay

Despite it being a legal right, fewer than one in three new fathers take paternity leave. Family-friendly policies can help. You may want to offer your employees more leave or pay in your company scheme, this should be clearly explained in your policies.

Leave for antenatal appointments

In the run-up to the birth, employees who meet the Statutory Paternity Leave eligibility criteria can take unpaid leave to accompany a pregnant woman to up to two antenatal appointments, of up to six and a half hours each.


  • Make sure your paternity leave and pay policies are clear and easily accessible to staff.
  • Proof is not needed for paternity leave unless you want to request it.
  • Employees who are adopting however, must give you proof of adoption to qualify for paternity pay. This can be a letter from their adoption agency or their matching certificate. You must keep records of the proof provided.
  • Employees can extend their paternity leave by taking paid holiday immediately after their paternity leave ends.
  • Be positive – Yes you might be without some of your star players for a couple of weeks but in return, you get a happier, healthier workforce who feel supported by you in this important time in their lives. They’ll return feeling appreciative and ready to work hard.

The legal requirements around paternity leave can be confusing, so if you need some HR expertise on paternity leave, or to create a policy on maternity, paternity and shared parental leave, we can help. Get in touch for a chat with one of our HR experts.

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