An employee may have the right to paternity leave and pay if either of the following apply:
- they're the biological father of the child
- their partner's having a baby, adopting a child or having a child through surrogacy
More than one person might ask for paternity leave for the same baby. For example, a baby's stepfather and biological father may both ask for paternity leave, if they'll both provide significant care for the child.
It's a good idea for your workplace to have a paternity policy that all staff can easily access, for example on an intranet or in a handbook, so that everyone knows their rights.
2. Paternity leave
By law, the employee can choose to take either 1 or 2 weeks' paternity leave.
If they take 2 weeks, these must be taken in one go.
Some workplaces offer more paternity leave. Check the employment contract if you're not sure.
By law you must not treat an employee unfairly for taking, or planning to take, paternity leave.
Choosing when the employee can start paternity leave
The employee can choose to start paternity leave on the day of the birth or afterwards.
As the baby could arrive early or late, you should:
- be flexible about when they start their leave
- make appropriate arrangements for their absence, such as arranging paternity cover
They cannot start paternity leave before the birth, but they could take another type of leave, depending on their employment contract and if you agree. For example, they could take holiday.
Starting leave after the birth
They can choose to start their paternity leave either:
- on a specific date
- after a certain number of days, for example 2 days after the birth
If the baby arrives early
If the baby arrives early, paternity leave and pay starts the day after the baby arrives.
There might be circumstances where your employee wants to start their leave later. So it's a good idea to be flexible about the start date.
Your employee must tell you of the new date they want to start leave. This does not have to be in writing unless you request it.
Your employee or someone close to them should tell you about the birth as soon as possible. Some workplaces have a policy about who must provide this information, and when.
If the baby's arrival is unexpected or traumatic you might be told about it from someone other than the employee, such as a family member. Even if your workplace has a policy about who should contact you, it's a good idea to be flexible and understanding in these circumstances.
If the baby arrives late
If the baby arrives late, your employee must tell you of the new date they're starting their paternity leave as soon as they can. This does not have to be in writing unless you request it.
If your employee wants to take time off before the birth, they could take another type of leave. For example, they could take holiday. Both you and the employee would need to agree this.
When their paternity leave must end
The employee must have taken all their paternity leave by the 56th day after the birth.
The employee might have the right to paternity pay.
If they're adopting:
- one partner might be eligible for adoption leave
- the other partner might be eligible for paternity leave
Paternity leave can start:
- on the date of the adoption placement
- up to 56 days after the placement of the child (the employer and employee should agree the date together)
- for overseas adoptions, on the date the child arrives in the UK or an agreed number of days after
If they're using surrogacy, paternity leave starts on the day of the birth or the day after. They do not have to provide proof they're using surrogacy unless you ask for it.
Shared Parental Leave
An employee could choose to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL), if they're eligible.
If they choose to take SPL, it must be taken after paternity leave.
Find out more about Shared Parental Leave.
During paternity leave, the employee will build up ('accrue') paid holiday including bank holidays. Paid holiday is also known as statutory annual leave.
Holiday leave and paternity leave cannot be taken at the same time.
It's a good idea to:
- discuss with your employee whether they'll take their holiday leave before or after their paternity leave
- keep an up-to-date note or other record of what's agreed
Find out more about holiday leave.
If there's a miscarriage, stillbirth or the baby dies soon after birth
The employee still has their paternity rights if:
- the baby is stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy
- the baby dies soon after birth
If the employee is eligible for parental bereavement leave and pay, they have the right to take this after they finish their paternity leave.
You should be as understanding and supportive as possible in these circumstances.
If you need to discuss work-related matters with the employee, you could arrange with someone else (such as their friend or family member):
- when this communication happens
- how it happens, for example whether any urgent communication can be emailed to a friend or family member
To support your employee, you could also offer more time off or a phased return to work.
There are different paternity rights for agency workers.