It can be one of the most important times in a man’s life: spending time with a newborn. Having some time away from work is a necessity at such a crucial time.
But paternity leave is often misunderstood. Is it equal to maternity leave? How much time off are dads entitled to? Can it be extended? We like to keep things simple here, so you'll find some straightforward answers below.
What is paternity leave?
You may know this already, but let’s make sure: paternity leave is a form of planned absence from work. It’s taken by a dad when their child is born, so that they can bond with their new one, and take care of them alongside mum.
Studies have found that paternity leave is good for the health and wellbeing of the mother, as well as building stronger relationships between father and child. It's also good for the relationship between the parents.
Paternity leave is also available for parents who are adopting a child, or having a baby through surrogacy.
Paternity leave entitlement
In the UK new dads are entitled to up to two consecutive weeks of paternity leave, depending on their length of service so far. You must have been working for the same employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week your baby is due.
A 'week' is the same as your normal working week. So if you're Monday - Friday, that's five days, but working Monday - Wednesday is only three. So two 'weeks' in that case would be six days.
No matter how many babies you have, the allowance stays the same. So you wouldn’t get 16 weeks for octuplets, unfortunately! You’re also entitled to time off to join your partner for two antenatal appointments (up to 6.5 hours each).
The employment rights of fathers are protected while on paternity leave. So this includes your right to pay rises, the accrual of holiday allowance, and returning to work.
You might also be entitled to Shared Parental Leave. We’ll cover the details of that in another post, but in short, you can share your partner’s allowance. So you’d take more while they take less. And you can split it up, too - taking blocks of leave between periods of work.
Is UK paternity leave paid?
Yes, under certain conditions.
Normally you have to have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, and give them plenty of notice you'll be taking leave (at least 15 weeks).
Statutory Paternity Pay is paid by the government. This, according to Gov.UK, is:
"£145.18 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Tax and National Insurance need to be deducted."
If your employer has extra paternity pay as a benefit, that can be added on top. Check your employment contract to see what's available.
Can paternity leave be extended?
Yes. There aren't any official rules around extending it, but a case can be made depending on the circumstances.
It could come in the form of an informal conversation. If issues arise after birth that need attention, managers might make exceptions and grant some time off, paid or unpaid. You do also have rights to parental leave as the child grows - up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave per year, as long as you've been with your employer for at least a year. This has to be taken in blocks of a week though, so it's more for dealing with a priority issue, such as a bad illness, rather than last-minute childcare situations.
Soon we'll cover the topic of shared parental leave. Stay tuned for that and more blogs about all sorts of workplace absence issues.