Having a child is a life-changing experience. The time after the baby is born is a vital time for dads – both in terms of bonding with the child, as well as supporting the mother. To recognise the importance of this time, in addition to creating a more equal division of childcare, paternity leave is an option for all new fathers – including the fathers of surrogate children and adopted children.

What is paternity leave?

Paternity leave is the planned absence from work that every father is entitled to when their child is born. This paid time is given to you in addition to the regular annual leave that you have through your job.

How long is paternity leave?

Paternity leave for fathers in the UK is normally two consecutive weeks, although this will depend on the amount of time that you have been in your job. The law stipulates that to ensure that you get your full entitlement of paternity leave you must have been working for the same employer for 26 weeks up until the end of the 15th week before the child is due.

In this situation, one week refers to your normal working week – so, for example, Monday to Friday for people who work Monday to Friday, or Wednesday to Saturday if these are the days that you work each week.

In addition to this, you are also entitled to have time off to go to up to two antenatal appointments (each one lasting up to 6.5 hours). You should also be aware that paternity leave allowance does not change regardless of the number of children that you have. This means that you do not get double the time, for example, if you have twins.

You may also have the option of taking shared parental leave. This is a situation whereby the leave is divided between maternity and paternity leave.

Do I get paid for paternity leave?

You will be paid for paternity leave. However, this is assuming that you pass the criteria that are set out by the government. The criteria for receiving statutory paternity leave according to the government are as follows:

• As stated above, you must have worked continuously for at least 26 weeks at the ‘qualifying week’ (the ‘qualifying week’ is the 15th week before the baby is due)

• You must be an employee

• You must have given the correct notice (any time before the ‘qualifying week’)

• You must have or expect to have responsibility for the upbringing of the child

• You must earn at least £123 per week

You should also bear in mind that your employer might have additional arrangements that are available to you.

At present, statutory paternity leave is £156.66 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Tax and National Insurance are then also deducted from this amount.

I am self-employed.  Do I get paternity leave?

To be eligible for paternity leave you must be an employee and have a contract of employment, whether such contract is expressly agreed in writing or orally or implied by the nature of the relationship. Unfortunately, this means that if you are self-employed, you are not eligible for paternity leave. The onus is on you to make sure that you plan for fatherhood.

It is important to remember, however, that you might be eligible to receive Universal Credit, child benefits, or family benefits to help to support yourselves.

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Alka Wood who is a Solicitor