Paternity Leave: An Employer's Guide

By Clare Parkinson
01 Aug 2019

An employee may need to take some time off work when their partner’s having a baby, adopting a child or having a child through surrogacy. Paternity leave rights entitle contracted staff members to this type of absence from work.

They’re often allowed certain benefits in this situation, including paternity pay or shared parental leave.

In this article, we’ll explore the statutory rights for paternity leave in the UK. We’ll also highlight the process for claiming this benefit as well as the average length.


What is paternity leave?

It refers to the period directly after the arrival of a child, and entitles fathers to take time off work to support their partner. It also provides them with some time to spend with their new family.

In order to be eligible for statutory paternity leave (or ordinary paternity leave), employees must:

  • Have a contract of employment.
  • Be the biological father, the mum’s spouse or a long-term partner.
  • Plan on sharing parental responsibility for the care of the baby.
  • Earn at least £118 a week before tax.
  • Have worked at your company continuously for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby’s due.

As a result of these requirements, certain individuals, such as agency and contract workers, are not eligible for paternity leave.


When does paternity leave start?

While staff members don’t have to provide an exact start date for their leave, they may propose a general time when they expect the baby is due.

According to the paternity leave rules, employees can’t start their leave before the arrival of their child.

They’re also required to provide you with at least a 28-day notice period if they’d like to change the start date for this absence period.


How much paternity leave are fathers entitled to?

In the UK, new and expecting fathers can either take one week or two consecutive weeks off work after the birth of their child. If an employee takes a single week's leave, they cannot take a second week's leave at a later date.

To effectively manage employee absences at work, you’ll need to know exactly how long is paternity leave.

The duration of this period of absence is dependent on the employee, but can’t be before the arrival of the child.

Instead, it must be either:

  • On the birth date.
  • The agreed-upon number of days after the birth.
  • The agreed-upon days after the expected week of childbirth.

It’s important to remember the paternity leave entitlements must finish within 56 weeks of the birth of the child (although rules differ when adopting).

Employees may decide to take some additional paternity leave after the birth of their child. In this situation, they can consider:

  • Shared parental leave.
  • Using part of their annual leave.
  • Requesting unpaid time off work.

It’s worth noting they aren’t entitled to additional time off if they’ve had more than one child, such as twins.


Is paternity leave paid?

Paternity leave entitlement in the UK allows for compensation when your staff are off work for this reason, as long as they meet the qualifying criteria.

Employees on statutory paternity leave may be entitled to receive statutory paternity pay. The standard weekly pay rate for this is currently £148.68, or 90% of their average weekly earnings. Whichever’s lower.

If you decide to offer contractual paternity pay, remember the rate of pay cannot be lower than the statutory rate.

It’s essential to set out the length and amount they’re entitled to in their contract of employment.


Paternity leave form

To claim paternity leave and pay, employees will need to provide you with a completed copy of form SC3 (or your version of it). For employees adopting, they’ll need to use form SC4 to apply for leave within seven days of matching with a child.

They’re required to inform you of:

  • The estimated due date.
  • When they’d like to start their leave.
  • Whether they want one or two weeks’ leave.

Remember, they must submit this form no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

Although not necessary, most employers request this in writing. For consistency, consider using the paternity leave letter template below. Remember you’ll need to adapt it to your specific requirements.


*Template start*

[Employee address]

[Company address]

Subject: Request for paternity leave

Dear [Relevant recipient]

National Insurance No: [add number]

My [wife/partner] is expecting a baby and I will have joint responsibility for the upbringing of the child.

I’m applying to take time off work to support my partner and care for our child. The expected date of birth of our baby is [insert date].

I’d like to start my paternity leave the day the baby is born, whenever this occurs, and to receive my paternity pay from this date. I understand that if I’m at work when the baby arrives, my leave and pay will start the day after. I would like to take two weeks’ leave and pay.

I hope this is satisfactory and I look forward to hearing back from you with confirmation of the above.

Yours sincerely,

[Employee name]

*Template End*

Disclaimer: The template is an example only and we don’t take any responsibility for inaccurate or inappropriate use of the document in your business.


Expert support

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Croner on 0808 145 3376.

About the Author

Image of Croner employee Clare Parkinson

Clare Parkinson has over 20 years’ experience in the Croner Reward business. As Business Manager, Clare leads a team of Reward Consultants who specialise in the delivery of pay and grading related advice, including tailored pay benchmarking and gender pay reports.

Over the years, Clare has contributed to various industry publications on topics such as gender pay, executive remuneration and market pay trends.

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