Maternity and paternity leave from 3 April 2011: explaining the changes

3 February 2011

The new arrangements will become law as from 3 April 2011 and will apply to any baby due on or adopted on or after that date*.

Fathers will be able to take up any Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay (ML & SMP) or Maternity Allowance (SMA) that their wife, partner or civil partner does not take – after she has been on leave for 26 weeks.

Note:  SMP is paid by the government to the employer – who pays the mother and recoups the cost from the government.

Note:  mothers who don’t qualify for SMP – they haven’t worked for their employer for long enough, for instance, or have not been employed – get Maternity Allowance (MA).  This is paid directly to the mother through the benefits system.

The minimum point at which the father can take up either of these leaves is when his baby is 20 weeks old – and only then if the mother returns to (or starts) work.

Note:   If the mother dies, the father can take up the remainder of her maternity leave at any time before the first 26 weeks as well as afterwards – up until the child’s first birthday.

During her 26 weeks at home, the mother is paid at 90% of her pay for the first six weeks, and receives the next 20 weeks at income support level (£124.88 per week).  If she goes back to work before she has taken 26 weeks’ leave, she loses any payment for weeks not taken – and so does the family:  the father cannot take it.  And he can’t begin his own Additional Paternity Leave before that time: he could look after his baby of course, but not ‘officially’ and not paid or with his job held open.

Once the 20 weeks point is reached, the father can begin taking up the unused section of his partner’s entitlement to leave/pay. This means he can get a maximum 13 weeks at £124.88 per week, and another 13 weeks at no pay.  All this has to be taken before his child’s first birthday.

Once the father starts taking this leave, it is called Additional Paternity Leave and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (APL & ASPP).  The father’s eligibility to take this leave is that he has to be have worked for his own employer for the requisite amount of time and given notice correctly (see the FATHERS link below to find out more about his eligibility).

How do parents prove their eligibility for the father to receive Additional Paternity Leave (and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay) – i.e. to take up the remainder of the mother’s entitlement to leave/pay?  Both parents will be required to “self certify” by each providing details of their eligibility to their employer. Employers and HM Revenue and Customs will both be able to carry out further checks of entitlement if necessary.

*Please note: this is a correction; we originally said ‘born on or adopted on’, but this was incorrect and we apologise for any confusion caused.

More information for fathers

Find out more at the governement’s public services site, Directgov.

More information for employers

Find out more at the goverment’s Business Link site.

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  • Rachel says:

    If the father is self-employed is it possible to get paternity pay from the government for the 20 weeks at minimum wage?

  • David says:


    Your article states that the new arrangements will apply to any baby born on or after the 3rd April but this is incorrect. The baby’s estimated due date needs to be on or after the 3rd April. My baby is due on the 1st April and my employer (a local council) originally advised me that if my baby was born on or after the 3rd April, I would qualify for the new arrangements and could take leave. However, I was very disappointed when they contacted me last week to tell me they’d realised they’d made a mistake and that I didn’t qualify. My partner must go back to work after 6 months and we’re very disappointed to have to put our baby into childcare so young because of two days on an estimated date…. If you have any advice to help us, we’d be very grateful.

    Thank you

    • Rob Williams says:

      HI David

      Thanks for the correction – you are right – the cricial date is the due date. So in legal terms your company is right. But they are oh so wrong in emotional terms. I am wondering if they might respond to an appeal from you on the grounds that your respect for your employer is going to be signficantly damaged if they rely on a technicality to avoid giving you time off work. The FI business case for paternity leave (which you can now find on our home page) will give you some good arguments in terms of motivation and productivity of employees who are able to take leave.

      Good luck.

      Rob Williams (FI)

    • Elly says:

      Did you have any success? My partner wants to use pat leave and our baby was born on the 6th of April but because due dare was in march he can’t! It seems ridiculous!

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Hi Elly – the due-date, rather than the birth date, was the one that mattered; they had to draw the line somewhere I suppose!

  • Graham says:

    I have a two year old child, work full time; my partner is self employed. If we were to have a 2nd child and my partner was to continue working can anyone tell me what paternity leave I would be entitled to. Many thanks.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Thanks for your message. Assuming you’re working and have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the start of the week when the baby is due – you’d be entitled to two weeks’ ordinary paternity leave, paid at the statutory rate of £124.88 per week (or more, if your employer pays more than the statutory rate). As she is self-employed, your partner is likely to qualify for maternity allowance rather than maternity leave. If this is the case, then as far as additional paternity leave is concerned, the same rules apply as in the article above

  • Rebecca says:


    I me and mu husband have a 16 month old son and i’m nearly six months pregnant with our second child. I had to give up work when our first child was born due to us not being able to afford child care fees. My partner is employed full time and always has been. Could you please advise where we stand now with this due to all the change!

    Many Thanks

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Hi Rebecca, Congratulations on your pregnancy! As you’re not working you should be eligible for maternity allowance, and under the new rules your husband would be able to take part of this, as described – so long as you go back to work. Here are some more details.

  • Emma says:

    Hello Im a little confused over this, Im due on the 19th December 2011 with twins i’m working 30hrs at the moment and my partner is 40hrs what way will it work for us im looking to take the full 12mths off.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Hi Emma, these changes are entirely optional – they won’t stop you needing to make difficult financial decisions between yourselves – they just mean you have more choices to consider!

  • Becks says:


    My husband works in the public sector and women going on mat leave from his organisation receive 6 months full pay and then 6 months half pay. Would this mean that he would be entitled to receive the same – ie 6 months half pay if he took additional paternity leave when I went back to work?

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Your husband would need to check with his employer directly – what we talk about here is the statutory additional paternity leave provisions; it’s obviously up to employers if they want to provide additional benefits on top of that. It would be interesting to hear what their answer is though – do let us know!

  • Louis Nosworthy says:

    Hello, I have been a police officer since 1992 and my wife has worked for her employer for 5 years. Due to the fact that my wife earns more than I we decided that we would be financially better off if I were to take the last 26 weeks of her maternity leave so that my wife can return to work.

    I have contacted the attendance and leave department of the police (Met)regarding our intentions (above)to see if they are viable.

    I have been told that if I were police civil staff our plan would be fine. However, due to the fact I am a non civilian officer I have been told that our plans would be rejected as the new laws have yet to be ratified by the Police Negotiating Board. To be honest I feel outraged that my family are being penalised for me being a front line officer.

    Regarding employment and maternity/paternity legislation is the above lawful?

    All the best, Louis & Family.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Thanks for the comment, Louis. As explained by email, we think your best bet is to contact Working Families, who should be able to advise you on the legalities of this. We look forward to hearing how you get on.

  • david says:

    hi i have not worked for my company for 26 weeks before the 15 weeks before the due date . is it possible to take any paternity leave even unpaid ?

  • Cassie says:


    I was going to split my maternity leave with my partner, however will be starting a new job with a new employer – is my partner still entitled to paternity leave? Our baby was born in September and he was supposed to be taking a month off this summer when I return to work (or now my new job).

    Any advice would be great.


  • tracy says:


    I had about 8 months maternity and my husband had the rest. We have just received out P60’s my is correct with my maternity on it. But my husband only had about 3 weeks left with pay of my maternity but this is not showing on his P60. He hass contacted work and they advised that it is included in his total for the year. But there is no breakdown. I dont think this is correct what do u all think.


    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Sorry we cannot help with individual cases like this. It sounds like your husband should talk again to the employer in question, and if necessary to the tax office. If in doubt, Citizen’s Advice should be able to help

  • john says:

    Hi there,
    Quick question – I am a father working full time. My girlfriend doesn’t work – she works from home and is self employed. Am I entitled to the 26 weeks off?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      No, additional paternity leave is only available in the form of unused maternity leave transferred from an eligible mother

  • Kris says:

    Very complex situation. My wife is from Viet Nam and has a no recourse spousal visa. She gave birth to our son in June after working full time from last September. She hasn’t taken any maternity pay as she wasn’t entitled, but has now returned to work. Am I only entitled to the paternity pay and extra paternity pay or can i take the maternity too? It’s just we’re trying to weigh the cost of childcare against the cost of me taking the time off work. If I’m only allowed 540 per month, then it’s not really here or there! Thank you

  • Tobias says:

    Hi there i have recently started a new job and i have been there for 4 months now when i went for my interview i clearly stated that we were expecting a child on the 29th of december at first they were fine with this and offered me paternity leave which was great but as the time has come closer they have decided that after looking into it i am not entitled paternity pay which once again not really great but atleast i could still have the time off to spend with the little one but then they spoke to me again and said they have the right to decline and leave atall even if the other half went into hospital they had the right to say i couldnt go because i have’nt been there long enough could somebody shed some light on this situation?

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Unfortunately your new employer is correct – paternity leave rights only kick in if you’ve been working for an employer for a minimum period. Check out our Dads’ FAQ: Paternity Leave etc for more details. Please let us know how you got/get on.

  • Chris says:

    Hi hope you can help me.

    My wife is DISABLED and currently does NOT work.

    We have an 18 month old daughter and are expecting a baby in June.

    I took 2 weeks paternity leave last time which was fine as I have been with my current employer for 4 years on a full time basis.

    Am I entitled to more than 2 weeks paternity leave, paid or unpaid?

    If so, when could this start and does my employer by law have to hold my job open for me?

    Many thanks


  • Dayle says:

    Hi there i am a farther to be my baby is due on the 23rd of june 2013 i have been working as a self employed builder since ive leftd school (about 7years ago) and me and the mother are no togeatha she works less than 16 hours a week but im in full time self employed work i was wondering if there was an goverment sort of paterinty leave i could apply for ?

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Unfortunately not. As a self-employed father you are pretty much on your own. Here’s our FAQ on Paternity Leave: It sounds like the best plan would be to sit down and plan what time you can carve out from your work, to spend with your baby. When you negotiate with your baby’s mother over contact, bear in mind that the more time you spend looking after the baby on your own, the more confident you will become as a hands-on father….and that’s what really counts.

  • gavin says:


    Quick question

    I want to take some additional paternity leave towards the end of my wifes maternity leave, maybe just 6 weeks. does my paternity leave have to start at exactly the same time that my wife goes back to work? or can there be a gap, for example my wife goes back to work and we’re both working for one week, then i go on paternity?

    hope that makes sense!

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Your wife must return to work for at least one day before you can take APL.

  • Gavin says:


    I am going to be taking additional paternity leave, does my paternity leave have to start on the day that my wife goes back to work or can there be a gap? i.e, my wife goes back to work and we are both at work for a week, then my paternity starts?

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      This would be fine. The mother must return to work for at least one day before you can take your APL.

  • Steve says:

    My partner as a disability would I be able to get apl leave to help and support her

  • Beth says:


    My maternity leave finishes in October, I will have taken nine months of it and my husband will then take three months additional paternity leave. I just have a few questions –

    1. I will have to take two weeks accrued holiday straight after my maternity leave finishes, I think this is classed as back to work, is that right?

    2. If I decide not to return to work and I find another job does this affect his paternity leave?

    3. If I decide to return to work only for one month and then leave, will my husband not be entitled to the remainder of the leave?

    Many thanks, I am so pleased I found this site!!

  • Laura says:

    My maternity leave will end in January, I have received some SMP. I don’t think I can take the whole lot though because I am starting University in September. Can my partner take any of the additional months of maternity leave as APL?

    Thanks for the information on your site.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Thanks for your enquiry. SMP is paid to employers by the government; it sounds likely that if you are leaving your employment in order to attend university you would need to claim maternity allowance, through the benefits system – APLand your partner would then need to claim APL after the 20 week period. Hope that’s helpful

  • paul says:

    Can a father take maternity as opposed to paternity leave and receive the 90% of his wage for 6 weeks etc. if the mother did not work before the birth?

  • John says:

    I have been employed by the same company for 13 years.
    My partner is self employed and she has been for 3 years.
    Am I right in thinking as she is self employed she will get maternity allowance and I could take any unused leave after 20 or 26 weeks??
    Am I also correct in thinking that I cannot take any additional paternity leave until at least the baby is 20 or 26 weeks old and she goes back to working for herself?
    She earns a lot more than me and it would make financial sense for us for me to be off work looking after our child rather than her, can this be done?

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Unfortunately you’re right – you could only take her unused leave after 20 weeks. You would be in a better position under shared parental leave, which comes in next year, as the maternity leave/pay can be transferred after 2 weeks. Good luck!

  • Lynsey m says:

    I can only take 4 months maternity leave (being the bigger wage earner). Is there any way for my husband to take APL before the 20 week mark. ( why on earth do they remit a start of 20 weeks, does the gvmt think all women must take 5 months maternity – welcome to the modern world )I go back at 15 weeks but at 13 weeks he is taking 2 weeks holiday and we have put in for his leave to start at 15 weeks (and is taking the maximum length). The APP is not an issue for 5 weeks but I am concerned that his company have not said anything.

    Also I have heard once APL is over he has to work 3 months otherwise he has to pay back some of the money – do you know where I can get clarification of this?


    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Hi there, sorry but 20 weeks is the limit (until April 2015, at which point it will reduce to 2 weeks). Take-up of APL has (unsurprisingly) been low, so many employers are a bit unsure of themselves. Here’s an outline of how APL should work: As you’ll see, you should give your employers at least 8 weeks’ notice using the forms; they must confirm in writing what APP your husband will get, and his leave start and end dates, within 28 days of his request. Haven’t heard about the 3 months payback arrangement – you should definitely seek clarification from your husband’s employer about that, as it doesn’t sound legal. Hope that helps, and good luck!

    • Lynsey m says:

      Many thanks. I am curious that his company only acknowledge the request when we put them in when I was 22 weeks pregnant and didn’t respond with any dates. Although they are not known for their strong HR and management skills.

      Thanks again

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Sounds like he should chase them, and he may like to mention that they should have responded within 28 days…

  • Alex says:

    Hi There,

    As a Father, are you allowed to take additional paternity leave if your wife does not work?

    As a Father, are you allowed to take additional paternity leave if your wife works part-time e.g. 2 days per week and you work full time? If so, what exactly?

    Also, as a Father, are you allowed to take parental leave if A: your wife is working full time, B: your wife does not work C: Your wife works full time?


  • saadat says:

    Hi there great info so basically if my wife don’t work I’m not eligible to take the 20 weeks?

  • Daniel says:


    I would like to take up my wife’s “maternity leave” and spend the first 6 weeks with my child. Is this possible at the normal rate of 90% of salary?

    There is not much info on this. Surely this is an equal rights issue that must be provided for?



    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Under the shared parental leave arrangements you can take her leave after the first 2 weeks, if you’re eligible. You can find out more about SPL here.

  • Derek says:

    My wife is self employed and needs to get back to work as soon as she is ready or we will have only one income and therefore will struggle to pay the bills. Will I be entitled to take paid leave instead of her?
    Thanks Derek

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