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Paternity leave and pay



Employees whose partner is having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement may be entitled to paternity leave and pay. Workers, while not entitled to paternity leave, may be entitled to receive paternity pay.

  • What is paternity leave?
  • Taking paternity leave
  • Receiving paternity pay
  • Other leave options
  • Attending antenatal or adoption appointments
  • Still births and sick babies                    
  • Agency workers and paternity rights
  • Employment rights during paternity leave
  • Unfair treatment during, or because of, paternity leave

What is paternity leave?

Paternity leave is a period of either one or two consecutive weeks that fathers or partners can take off from work to care for their baby or child.

It is available to employees who:

  • have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing
  • are the biological father of the child, the mother's husband or partner (including same sex relationships) or the partner of the primary adopter
  • have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the baby is due, or the end of the week in which the child's adopter is notified of being matched with the child (UK adoption), or the date the child enters the UK (overseas adoptions).

Taking paternity leave


An employee must inform their employer no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth that they wish to take paternity leave. They should say when the baby is due, if they're going to take one or two weeks off, and when they expect their paternity leave to start.

An employee can choose for their leave to begin on:

  • the day the baby is born
  • a certain number of days after the baby is born
  • a specific date which is not earlier than when the baby is due.

Paternity leave cannot start before the baby is born and the baby may not arrive on time. An employer should therefore be prepared to flexible with cover arrangements for employees planning to take paternity leave.

Employees will need to complete their paternity leave within 56 days of the actual date of birth of the child.

Adoptions and Surrogacy Arrangements

When adopting, one partner, if they qualify, can take adoption leave as the main adopter and the other may be entitled to paternity leave.

A period of paternity leave when adopting a child can start:

  • on the date of placement
  • an agreed number of days after the date of placement
  • on the date the child arrives in the UK or an agreed number of days after (for overseas adoption)
  • the day the child is born or the day after for surrogate parents.

In all adoptions, an employee will need to have taken their Paternity Leave within 56 days of the placement date.

Receiving paternity pay

Employees or workers who take time off may be entitled to either Statutory Paternity Pay or Contractual Paternity Pay.

Statutory Paternity Pay

Statutory Paternity Pay will be payable if an employee or worker has been:

  • working continuously for one company for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth
  • has an average weekly earnings at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions.

Since April 2018 the rate has been £145.18 per week or 90 per cent of the average weekly earnings, whichever is less. 

Contractual Paternity Pay

An employer may choose to offer a rate of pay which is higher than the statutory rate. The amount and the length for which it is paid should be set out in the terms and conditions of employment. Contractual paternity pay cannot be lower than the statutory rate.

Other leave options

An employee may not qualify for paternity leave, or they may want to take some additional time off when the baby is born. In these circumstances an employee could consider the following:

Shared Parental Leave

Give parents more flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year following birth or adoption. Eligible parents can exchange part of their maternity or adoption leave for Shared Parental Leave. They can then share this leave with each other in a way that best suit their needs in caring for their child.

For more information, go to our page on Shared parental leave and pay.

Annual leave

An employee could submit an annual leave request to take time off at the time the baby is born. This should be done in accordance with the employer's annual leave policy and the employer would have the right to accept or decline the request depending on business needs.

For more information, go to our page on Holidays.

Unpaid time off

An employee could discuss with their employer whether they could come to an agreement to take unpaid time off. This could only be done if both employee and employer agree to it.

Attending Antenatal or Adoption Appointments

Antenatal classes

Fathers and partners of a pregnant woman are entitled to unpaid time off during working hours to accompany her to two ante-natal appointments.

The time off should not exceed 6.5 hours per appointment and should be used to travel to and attend the appointment. If this takes less than 6.5 hours the employee should return to work unless alternative arrangements have been made with their employer.

There is no legal right to paid time off for attending antenatal appointments. However, an employee's contract of employment may entitle them to the time off with pay.

If an employee does not want to take unpaid time off, they could request annual leave or ask if they could work the hours at a different time.  

The right to two unpaid antenatal appointments also includes employees who will become parents through a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to satisfy the conditions for, and intend to apply for, a Parental Order.

Adoption appointments

The main adopter is able to take paid time off for up to 5 adoption appointments. The main adopter's partner (secondary adopter) is entitled to take unpaid time off for up to 2 appointments.

For more information see Adoption leave and pay.

Still births and sick babies

If the baby is stillborn after the twenty fourth week of pregnancy or if the baby is born alive at any point (even if the baby later passes away) the employee is entitled to full paternity rights if they satisfy the conditions above.

When a baby is born prematurely or with health needs an employee may not want to be thinking about work. An employer should offer appropriate support in these circumstances.

For more information go to Workplace support for parents with premature or sick babies.

Agency Workers and paternity rights

Agency workers do not usually qualify for paternity leave (unless they are an employee of the agency).

However, an agency worker may qualify for paternity pay if they meet the qualifying criteria. If an agency worker qualifies for paternity pay they should write to their agency at least 28 days before they want the payment to begin stating:

  • the agency worker's name
  • when the baby is due
  • when the worker would like the payment to begin
  • whether they are requesting one or two weeks pay.

Agency workers can usually choose when to make themselves available for work so may choose to be unavailable for work for a period of time after the baby is born.

An agency worker whose partner is pregnant has the right to attend two unpaid antenatal appointments with their partner once they have completed a twelve week qualifying period with one hiring company.

For more information, go to Agency workers.

Employment rights during paternity leave

An employee has the right to not be treated less favourably by their employer for taking, or proposing to take, paternity leave.

An employee also has the right to return to their own job following a period of paternity leave and their terms and conditions should remain the same.

Annual leave (including Bank Holidays where applicable) continues to accrue during paternity leave and an employee must be able to take this leave at some point during their leave year.

Unfair treatment during, or because of, paternity leave

If an employee feels that they have been treated unfairly because of taking, or proposing to take, paternity leave, they should first consider raising the issue informally. Some issues can be resolved quickly through a conversation with a line manager or other person within the business.

If an informal approach does not work, an employee has the option of raising a formal complaint (also known as a grievance). This should be done in writing and can make the employer aware of how strongly the employee feels about the situation, while also giving the employer the opportunity to resolve it.

As a last resort the employee could consider making a complaint to an Employment Tribunal. There is generally a three month time limit for bringing a claim to Employment Tribunal. However this time limit can be paused if Early Conciliation is taking place. For more information, go to Employment Tribunals.