Taking paternity leave
An employee can choose to take either 1 or 2 weeks' statutory paternity leave, if they're eligible.
It might be written in their contract that they get more than statutory paternity leave. This can be called 'enhanced' or 'contractual' paternity leave.
Asking for paternity leave
To take statutory paternity leave, the employee must tell their employer no later than 15 weeks before their baby is expected to be born:
- that they're having a baby
- how much paternity leave they plan to take
- the date they want to start their leave
The employee can do this in person, by email or letter. They can also use the form statutory paternity pay and leave: becoming a birth parent (SC3) on GOV.UK.
It might not always be possible for an employee to tell their employer in the required time. The employer should talk with them to check why and the employee must give the notice without any further delay.
How the employer should respond
The employer should respond in writing confirming the dates the employee has requested. This can help keep everything clear.
If an employee is not eligible for statutory paternity pay while they're on paternity leave, the employer must tell them in writing.
The employer should do this within 28 days and can use the form non-payment of statutory paternity pay (SPP1) on GOV.UK.
If the employee is not asking for paternity pay, the employer should still respond in writing. For example, sending the employee an email or letter to confirm the dates of their paternity leave.
When an employee can start statutory paternity leave
The employee can choose to start statutory paternity leave on either:
- the day their baby is born, or the day after if they're at work on that day
- an agreed date after their baby is born
They must take their statutory paternity leave all together, for example they cannot take 1 week and another week later on.
They must take their statutory paternity leave within 8 weeks (56 days) of the birth.
They cannot start statutory paternity leave before the birth. But they could agree with their employer to take another type of leave before paternity leave, for example holiday.
Changing the start date
If the employee wants to change the date they start paternity leave, they must usually give the employer 28 days' notice. This does not have to be in writing unless the employer requests it.
In some circumstances it may not be possible for the employee to give 28 days' notice of the change, for example if the baby is born early or late.
If the baby is born early or is sick
An employee might need to change the date they start paternity leave if their baby:
- is born early
- is born prematurely – more than 3 weeks before the date they were expected to be born (before 37 weeks)
- needs to stay in hospital for a time after birth
An employee can take statutory paternity leave within 8 weeks after the date their baby was born. So they might decide to start it once their baby is home from hospital.
They will need to tell their employer the new date they're starting paternity leave.
The employer should be supportive of any difficult circumstances. They could allow for someone other than the employee to tell them, such as the employee's friend or family member.
The employee does not have to give the employer any formal evidence of the date of birth. But some employers might have a policy that asks for staff to contact work as soon as possible.
If the baby is born late
If the baby is born late, the employee must tell their employer the new date they're starting their paternity leave as soon as they can. This does not have to be in writing unless the employer requests it.
If the employee wants to take time off before the birth, they could agree with their employer to take another type of leave, for example holiday.
If there's a stillbirth or death soon after birth
If there's a stillbirth or the baby dies soon after birth, it might be difficult for the employee to tell their employer. The employer should allow for someone else to tell them, for example the employee's family member or friend.
The employer should offer support for the employee. When the employee is ready, they can talk about what time off they think they'll need.
Their paternity rights still apply if their baby:
- is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy
- is born alive at any stage of the pregnancy but only lives for a short time
The legal name for the time off is 'statutory paternity leave'. If the employee is not comfortable calling it paternity leave, they can let the employer know so they can support them.
Employers should be sensitive to the employee's preference and be led by them when having conversations about leave.
If the employee is eligible for parental bereavement leave and pay, they have the right to take this after they finish their paternity leave.
If the employer needs to discuss anything work-related with the employee, they 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
If there's a miscarriage
A miscarriage means a pregnancy loss in the first 24 weeks.
Employees are not entitled to statutory paternity leave after a miscarriage. However, many people would still consider miscarriage a bereavement. The employer should still consider offering time off at what can be an extremely difficult time, both physically and emotionally.
Find out more about:
- if an employee or their partner has a stillbirth or miscarriage
- supporting an employee after a death
Contact the Acas helpline
If you have any questions about paternity leave, contact the Acas helpline.