Paternity leave rights
Paternity leave allows an employee to spend time with a new child and support their partner.
How much paternity leave an employee can take
If an employee is eligible for statutory paternity leave, by law they can choose to take 1 or 2 weeks.
This is the same even if they're having more than 1 child, for example twins.
It might be written in their contract that they get more than statutory paternity leave. This can be called 'enhanced' or 'contractual' paternity leave.
Who can take statutory paternity leave
Someone must be legally classed as an employee to take paternity leave.
Eligibility for statutory paternity leave
The employee must have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing, or care of their partner. They must be one or both of the following:
- the child's father
- married to, the civil partner or partner of the mother or birth parent – this includes same-sex partners
They must have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 'qualifying week'.
To work out the qualifying week, use a calendar to count back 15 weeks from the week the baby is expected to be born.
Eligibility criteria is different for:
To check eligibility, you can use the paternity leave and pay checker tool on GOV.UK.
If they're no longer with their partner
If the employee has separated from their partner but has ongoing parental responsibility for their child, they can still get statutory paternity leave and pay.
How the law protects employees taking paternity leave
It's against discrimination law (Equality Act 2010) for employers to cause employees 'detriment' for taking, or planning to take, paternity leave.
Detriment means someone experiences one or both of the following:
- being treated worse than before
- having their situation made worse
Examples of detriment could be:
- their employer reduces their hours
- they experience bullying
- they experience harassment
- the employer turns down their training requests without good reason
- they are overlooked for promotions or development opportunities
If an employee believes they've experienced detriment because of paternity leave, they can raise this with their employer. It's usually best to first raise the problem informally by talking to their employer.
If this is not possible or it does not resolve the problem, they can raise a grievance. This is where they make a formal complaint to their employer.
If the problem still does not get resolved, they could make a claim to an employment tribunal.
Holiday and paternity leave
Employees still build up their usual holiday entitlement during statutory paternity leave.
They cannot take holiday while on statutory paternity leave, but they could agree with their employer to take it before or after.
It's a good idea for the employer and employee to:
- agree whether the employee will take their holiday leave before or after their paternity leave
- keep an up-to-date note or other record of what's agreed
Agency workers and statutory paternity leave
If someone who works through an agency is legally classed as an employee, they're entitled to statutory paternity leave.
If they're legally classed as a worker, they're not entitled to statutory paternity leave. They're likely to want to take time off after a birth or adoption, so the agency and employer should make an arrangement with them. This could be paid holiday, unpaid leave or special leave.
Other types of leave
Parents might also be entitled to:
- shared parental leave
- ordinary parental leave
Shared parental leave
Employees can decide to take shared parental leave. This gives more choice in how 2 parents can take leave when they're having a child.
Shared parental leave allows maternity or adoption leave to end early and the remaining leave be shared between the parents.
One parent can take shared parental leave instead of paternity leave or after they've taken paternity leave.
Ordinary parental leave
Parents have the right to unpaid time off work when they need to look after their children.
This is called 'ordinary parental leave' or unpaid parental leave.
An employee might want more time off than the statutory 2 weeks' paternity leave. They can take up to 4 weeks' unpaid parental leave starting on the day their:
- baby is born
- adoption placement starts
They can then take their statutory paternity leave afterwards. Employers cannot refuse employees taking parental leave in this way.
Contact the Acas helpline
If you have any questions about paternity leave, you can contact the Acas helpline.