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A Guide to Paternity Leave in the UK

Birth is a miracle. When new parents bring babies into the world, they create a vital new generation, enriching their lives, and the life of our society as a whole. Paternity leave serves an important social function. Employers and employees alike benefit from learning about paternity leave in the UK, as the right knowledge helps them find the perfect solutions for the issues at hand. Businesses create successful paternity leave policies when employees maintain high morale and a productive work/life balance, and families form strong bonds.

What is Paternity Leave?

Paternity leave in the UK refers to the planned absences that new fathers in employment take off from work to support their families. Employees may take time off work to spend with their families throughout the year, but paternity leave refers to a specific category of funded parental leave provided to new fathers. Businesses collaborate with parents in their employment and support different forms of parental leave through negotiation and supportive tools like absence management software.

Of course, everyone’s different, as is every family and every business. Paternity leave looks different in different situations, but each example shares a key characteristic. Whether it’s a nuclear married family, an adoption, a same-sex couple, a surrogacy, or any other situation, people need time to spend with their families, especially when expecting a newborn.

What’s the Point of Paternity Leave

Paternity leave might seem like a bit of a drag for some businesses as employees deprioritise their contracted duties. However, the evidence shows that paternity leave creates a net benefit for all parties. Mothers or other caregivers benefit from the emotional and practical support that fathers on paternity leave provide. Similarly, the first days postpartum prove crucial for newborns to bond with their parents, so fathers should be around during these initial stages.

When businesses give their employees enough time and space to separate their work and their life, they foster productive, successful workplaces. These benefits mean paternity leave in the UK makes ethical and financial sense for businesses and their employees.

Who’s Eligible for Paternity Leave in the UK?

The government provide detailed eligibility criteria for paternity leave in the UK, meaning that the right people get the right leave. To qualify for paternity leave, you must qualify for a paternal role. Here, paternity includes either the biological father, the partner of the biological mother or adoptive parent, the adoptive parent themselves or the intended parent in the case of surrogacy.

Employees must also work 26 consecutive weeks with their employer to access statutory paternity leave. These 26 weeks must be completed by the 15th week before the due date or the week you get matched with a child for adoption.

How Much Paternity Leave Do UK Businesses Provide?

Employees who fill the eligibility criteria, including the required working weeks, become eligible for two weeks of paternity leave. If they’re contracted employees but haven’t yet worked for 26 consecutive weeks, employees can still receive a single week of paternity leave. This leave must be taken in blocks of consecutive weeks, and still includes weekends as part of the week. Of course, businesses can opt to provide more paternity leave, but they must give a minimum of two weeks within the given criteria as standard.

Anyone who qualifies for paternity leave also qualifies to take time off for one or two antenatal appointments. The regulations do not oblige employers to pay for this time off, but they may choose to anyway as a gesture of good faith.
Employees receive a mandated maximum of 6.5 hours for each appointment, which, again, employers can choose to extend.

While employers can ask their workers to sign something proving that they will use the time off for an antenatal appointment, they cannot ask for medical proof of the appointment from the employee or the medical practitioner involved.

Find more details in the government’s guidance linked above, or from citizens’ advice.

What is Paternity Pay?

New fathers, by law, qualify for paternity pay if they qualify for paternity leave. The pay that new fathers receive while on paternity leave in the UK depends on their salary and their employer. Depending on which sum is lower, weekly paternity pay equates to 90% of an employee’s weekly salary before tax, or £156.66 per week. The latter base rate increased from £148.68 in 2022 and may rise again in the future with inflation.

The UK government funds this paternity pay, removing the burden on employers. Employers can also choose to support their employees with additional paternity pay or other benefits. In either instance, a new father’s paternity pay remains subject to tax and national insurance contributions, which should be accounted for when calculating take-home wages.

How Much Maternity Leave Do UK Businesses Provide?

New mothers receive far more leave than new fathers, which stems from the biological connection between mother and child. This allowance also extends to adoptive mothers and mothers involved in surrogacy. Unlike men and their paternity leave, women earn the right to maternity leave from their first week in employment. In the UK, maternity leave extends to 52 weeks or a full year.

The year includes 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (OML) and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave (AML). New mothers typically take more time off work than men following the birth of their child, but other parental leave options provide men with further opportunities to support their families as they grow.

Other Parental Leave Options

Paternity leave in the UK refers specifically to the two weeks that employers must provide as a statutory right to those who qualify. However, employers and regulators offer plenty of options for fathers to spend time with their newborns. Increasingly, new parents opt for shared parental leave or SPL. If both parents qualify for their respective leave allowances, they may opt for SPL, thereby choosing to share their leave between caregivers as they see fit. SPL sees parents share 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay between them.

Of course, both parents must agree to this arrangement and brief their respective employers about their leave. As well as sharing the leave between parents, SPL lets new parents take their leave in 3 separate blocks following the birth. For more information on shared parental leave, refer to the UK government’s guidance.

If they need more time with their newborns, parents sometimes take additional unpaid leave, use their annual leave to support their families, or negotiate remote and hybrid working arrangements with their employers.

How Do Businesses Benefit From Paternity Leave?

Paternity leave in the UK delivers distinct advantages for businesses and workers alike. These business benefits prove vital in a competitive labour market. Building a positive and productive company culture helps businesses catch the eye of promising new recruits, boost morale among their existing ranks, and win over customers and investors.

Studies show that thoughtful, compassionate paternity leave policies increase productivity, and curb churn, absenteeism, and presenteeism. Parental leave also supports a cohesive, happy, and productive society. Businesses thrive when they support their employees, and their employees support them.

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