Your rights in paternity leave and pay

This article gives you facts and tips about paternity leave and pay. Download the factsheet pdf here!

This article has been produced for Pregnant Then Screwed by law students at the University of Chester. Information correct as of 22 March 2023.



FACT: Paternity leave is the right to have time off work for fathers and partners after the birth or adoption of a child.  Paternity leave and pay rules apply to all partners, regardless of gender.

How long does paternity leave last?
Statutory paternity leave lasts two weeks – you can choose to take a one-week block, or a two-week block. 

TIP: you do NOT have a legal right to take paternity leave in days here and there, or in two separate weeks (one now and one later) – it must either be taken as one week or one fortnight.

Your employer may have a more generous policy than that provided by law.  You should check this.


How do I qualify for paternity leave?

For paternity leave, you must:

  • be an employee
  • have – or expect to have – responsibility for the child’s upbringing
  • be the biological father of the child – OR – be the mother’s (or primary adopter’s) spouse, civil partner or partner
  • have worked continuously for your employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due, or by the date the client is matched with a child for adoption (the ‘qualifying week’)
  • Give the correct notice (See below)


How do I qualify for statutory paternity pay?

You must:

  • Meet all the requirements for paternity leave; AND
  • have earned a minimum average amount (this is a figure set by the government each year: each week before the qualifying week.


What information will my employer need from me?

For paternity leave, you must tell them:

  • When the baby is due or when the child will be placed for adoption (or the date of birth or adoption if this has already passed)
  • Whether you want to take one week or two weeks’ leave 
  • The date you want your leave to start 


For statutory paternity pay (SPP) you must also state:

  • Whether you want to receive one- or two-weeks’ statutory paternity pay 
  • When you want your pay to start
  • That you are the baby’s father/mother’s partner and will be responsible for the baby’s upbringing, and that you will care for the child or support the child’s mother whilst getting statutory paternity pay


TIP: You do not have to inform your employer of these things in writing BUT it is a very good idea to do so, to keep a paper trail in case of disagreements later.


When can I take paternity leave?
Paternity leave must be taken within 56 days from the birth/adoption.  

Do I need to fill in a form?
No – your employer may ask you to use a form, but there is no legal need for this.   


Can I change my mind about when paternity leave starts?
Yes, you can change your mind about this by giving 28 days’ notice.


Can I start paternity leave before the birth/adoption to make preparations?
No.  Paternity leave cannot start before the baby is born/before the child is adopted. Paternity leave will start the day after the baby is born or the child is placed for adoption.  
TIP: If you want time off before the birth or adoption, you may choose to use annual leave, or your employer may have a more generous policy: you should check this.


Can the employer refuse paternity pay?
If your employer decides that you are not entitled to statutory paternity pay, they should give you a written decision within 28 days of when you give them notice of your wish to take it. 

If they do not give you a decision, or you think the decision is wrong, you can ask HMRC to decide for you.



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