Is your partner having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement? If so, it’s important to know your employee rights when it comes to paternity leave and paternity pay.

We’ve created this comprehensive guide so you have all the information you need.

Paternity Leave in the UK

According to a recent UK study by EMW, only 27% of eligible partners took paternity leave in 2020-2021. This is likely due to the low rate of paternity pay which is just £156.66 per week, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

When taking leave, you are entitled to either one or two weeks of paid paternity leave or paternity pay, but not both leave and pay. There are no options for splitting the leave up into blocks. Furthermore, one week’s leave is only as many days leave as you normally work in a week. For example, if you work two days per week you are eligible for up to four days of parental leave over two weeks. These conditions still apply if your partner has a multiple birth (i.e. twins).

None of these choices impacts your right to take unpaid leave for two antenatal appointments. This includes a right to six and a half hours per appointment, or more if the employer allows it.


You’re only eligible to take time off if you’ll be looking after the child. You must also be one of the following:

  • the father
  • the spouse or partner of the mother (or adopter) – this includes same-sex partners and civil partners
  • the child’s adopter
  • the intended parent (if you’re having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement)

In order to take paternity leave, you must be classed as an employee in your company.

And to take paternity pay, you must earn a minimum of £123 per week and be employed by your employer up to the date of birth.

Giving Notice

For both paternity leave and paternity pay, it’s necessary to give the correct amount of notice (15 weeks before the due date). You must also have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the ’qualifying week’ (15 weeks before the due date).

Employee Rights When On Leave

While you’re on paternity leave, your employee rights are still protected. This includes your right to:

  • pay rises
  • accrue holidays
  • go back to work

If you’re adopting a child, you can get time off to attend 2 adoption appointments after you’ve been matched with a child.

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)

You can also apply to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) or Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). This is the equivalent of 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between the two parents.

Both SPL and ShPP must be taken within a year of the child being born or placed within your family. However, unlike normal leave, SPL can be broken up into blocks separated by work. You can also take it all in one go, choose to be off at the same time as your partner or stagger the time off between the two of you.


In order to be eligible for SPL and ShPP, you and your partner need to give the correct notice (8 weeks), meet the eligibility criteria (see, and give up some of your maternity or adoption leave and pay.

When giving up maternity or adoption leave and pay for SPL and ShPP, you or your partner has to:

  • take fewer than the 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave, substituting the rest for SPL
  • take fewer than the 39 weeks of maternity or adoption pay (or Maternity Allowance)  substituting the rest for ShPP

To clarify, here’s an example:

If you’re the mother and you’ve taken 32 weeks of Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay, you can share 20 weeks of SPL (32 + 20 = 52 weeks) and 7 weeks of ShPP (32 + 7 = 39 weeks) with your partner.

Key Takeaways

Although paternity pay may be low, taking the leave you’re entitled to will allow you to spend quality time with your newborn baby or adopted child. In this situation, it’s important to know your employee rights and those of your employer. Getting organised in advance can save you time and stress down the line when it truly matters.

Check our Refreshing a Career’s dedicated section on Parenthood for further information. From Maternity Leave to Adoption Leave, we’ve got all the Support and Resources you need when expecting or adopting.

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