Dads’ FAQs: Paternity leave etc

11 October 2012


Questions we have been asked include:

‘I took two weeks paternity leave, but now my employer says I was not entitled to it and won’t be paid’

‘I work as a teacher and my Head says that teachers aren’t eligible for paternity leave’

‘I have heard that fathers as well as mothers have a right to ask for flexible working when their children are young. Is this true?’

‘Do I have the right to time off to accompany my wife to antenatal scans?’

‘My husband is on paternity leave but there is confusion over how much money he should be getting’

Ordinary Paternity Leave

You may qualify for Ordinary Paternity Leave and Pay if you have been employed for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the start of the week when the baby is due – or if you’re adopting, the end of the week in which you’re notified of being matched with a child. You must be taking the time off to support the mother or carer for the baby and must also be either:

• the biological father of the child

• the mother’s husband or partner (including same-sex relationships)

• the child’s adopter, or

• the husband or partner (including same-sex relationships) of the child’s adopter.

You can take either one or two weeks’ leave (not odd days); if you take two weeks they must be taken together. A week is based on the usual working pattern, so if you work Mondays and Tuesdays only, a week would be two days or if you work Monday to Friday, a week would be five days. The leave must be taken so that it finishes within 56 days of the baby’s birth.

Ordinary Paternity Pay is paid for up to two consecutive weeks at a statutory rate (find out the current rate on the Government website) or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings, if that’s less.

To qualify for Ordinary Paternity Leave you must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the start of the week when the baby’s due (or within 7 days of being told you’ve been matched for adoption):

• when the baby is due (or when the child is expected to be placed with you for adoption)

• whether you want one or two weeks’ leave

• when you want the leave to start.

Read the official guidance on the Government website.

Additional Paternity Leave

Under arrangements introduced in April 2011, you can now take up any Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay or Maternity Allowance (the latter is paid through the benefits system to mothers who don’t qualify for maternity leave, for example if they are not employed, or haven’t worked for their employer long enough) that your wife or partner does not take – but only after she has been on leave for 26 weeks. You can take this opportunity once your baby is 20 weeks old – and only then if the mother returns to (or starts) work. The exception to this is if the mother dies, in which case you 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 (£128.73 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 you can’t begin your own Additional Paternity Leave before that time: you could look after your baby of course, but not ‘officially’ and not paid or with your job held open. Once the 20 weeks point is reached, you can begin taking up the unused section of your partner’s entitlement to leave/pay. This means you he can get a maximum 13 weeks at the statutory rate, and another 13 weeks at no pay. Once you start taking this leave, it is called Additional Paternity Leave and you receive Additional Statutory Paternity Pay. All this has to be taken before his child’s first birthday.

As with Ordinary Paternity Leave and Pay, you must have worked for your employer for the right amount of time, and given notice correctly, in order to qualify (as above). Read the official guidance on the Government website.

See also our FAQ on Shared Parental Leave, which applies for parents of babies born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015.

Parental leave (unpaid)

If you have a child aged under five, (or under 18 if your child is disabled), and if you have worked for your employer for at least a year, you have the right to take unpaid parental leave. To qualify for this right, you must be named on your child’s birth certificate or adoption certificate, or have legal Parental Responsibility – whether or not you live full-time with the child (find out more by reading the Dads’ FAQ on Parental Responsibility, which you’ll find via the link below). Each parent can take a total of up to 13 weeks’ parental leave for each child, up to their fifth birthday (or if you have a disabled child, 18 weeks each until their 18th birthday).

The purpose of parental leave is to allow parents to take time off, if needed, to look after their child. You may use it to extend their paternity or adoption leave, or at other times – for example to allow you to:

• spend more time with your child in their early years

• spend time with your child during a stay in hospital

• look at new schools

• settle your child into new childcare arrangements

• allow your family to spend more time together, for example, taking the child to stay with grandparents.

Your employer may ask for evidence that you’re entitled to parental leave, including the child’s birth certificate, or papers confirming the award of their disability living allowance. Read the official guidance on the Government website.

Other time off

The law says that all employees have a right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving people you care for. This is known as time off for dependants, and applies regardless of how long you have been working for an employer. For more details about this and ‘compassionate leave’, check the Government website.

Flexible working

You have the right to request flexible working and your employer must take your request seriously. Read the official guidance on the Government website.

Organisations that can help

Working Families explains your entitlements. If you wish to speak to someone, you can call its parents and carers helpline free on 0300 012 0312. Alternatively email or text 07800 00 4722.

Citizen’s Advice answers many frequently asked questions on its Adviceguide.

Find links to other Dads’ FAQs articles here.


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