What is paternity leave and how does it work?

Paternity leave father caressing his cute little newborn baby boy

Just as mothers are entitled to maternity leave from work when they have a baby, fathers are entitled to paternity leave when their new baby arrives. Paternity leave is far shorter than maternity leave, but it can be invaluable for supporting the health and wellbeing of both parents. Let’s explain how paternity leave works and who is eligible.

What is paternity leave?

Paternity leave is a type of planned absence from work taken by fathers when their child is born. It’s an opportunity for dads to bond with their new baby and provide support to the mother while she recovers from labour. Paternity leave is also available to adoptive fathers and those who are having a baby via surrogacy.

How does it work?

In the UK fathers are entitled to take up to two consecutive weeks of leave when their baby is born. A ‘week’ constitutes the number of days typically worked within a normal week. For example, if an employee usually works two days each week, they are entitled to a maximum of four days of paternity leave.

Paternity leave must be taken in one go. It cannot begin before the baby is born (or before the placement in the case of adoption), and it must be taken within 56 days of the birth or placement. An employer must be notified of an employee’s wish to take maternity leave 28 days before the leave is due to start. The employee does not have to give an exact date for when their leave begins. They can give a general start time, such as ‘the day of the birth’ or ‘a week after the birth’.

Is it paid?

During paternity leave, fathers are entitled to pay. The amount paid is either 90% of their average weekly earnings, or a statutory weekly rate of £151.97, whichever is lower. This is paid in the same manner as normal wages, so either monthly or weekly, and it is subject to tax and National Insurance.

Who is eligible for it?

In order to be eligible for paternity leave and pay, a father must have been an employee of the same business for at least 26 weeks by the time they reach the ‘qualifying week’. This is the fifteenth week before the baby is due to be born. Adoptive fathers must have been an employee of the same business for at least 26 weeks by the ‘matching week’, which is either the week in which they are matched with the child for UK adoptions or the date the child enters the UK for overseas adoptions.

In addition, to qualify for paternity pay, a father must earn at least £120 per week before tax. Fathers are still entitled to paternity leave and pay if the baby is born alive at any point in the pregnancy, or is stillborn from week 24 of the pregnancy.

Are self-employed fathers entitled to it?

There is no Statutory Paternity Pay or equivalent currently available for self-employed fathers. However, depending on their income some self-employed fathers may be entitled to family benefits or child benefits to help them take some leave after having a baby. See more.

Gifts for colleagues 

Are you looking for a thoughtful gift for someone set to take paternity leave? Check out our range baby bouquets and gift boxes for inspiration.