Is there a process to follow?
“If your employer has a paternity leave policy, it will give you details of how and when you should apply. Most employees choose to tell their employers informally after the 12-week or 20-week pregnancy scan that they are expecting to take paternity leave. Your manager should then confirm the requirements for applying, which usually means confirming in writing that you are eligible to take the leave, whether you want to take one week or two weeks, and when you want the leave to start. You might be asked for evidence that you are taking leave to care for the child.” – Tabitha Cunningham, associate solicitor
“Always refer to your employment contract. If there isn’t any information contained within that document, check if your employer has created any policies for it. Once you’ve read the policy, ensure your understanding is correct by speaking to HR or to whoever is responsible for managing paternity leave. If there is no paperwork in place and no one who can help you, visit your trade union website or Gov.uk, which will give you helpful tips on what you should expect. Put your expectations in writing for your employer and set out what you think you are entitled to and how you would like to apply for it.” – Paula
Do you have to work for your company for a specific amount of time to be eligible?
“Yes, you will only be eligible if you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks before you submit the request, which is 15 weeks before the week of the due date. Essentially, you have to have worked for your employer for at least 31 weeks before the child’s due date.” – Tabitha
Can you split paternity leave?
“No, but you can split maternity leave. This is called ‘shared parental leave’. You both have to be eligible for this scheme before you can apply and you both have to share ‘parental responsibility’ (a legal term which essentially starts with the father being named on the birth certificate), and your partner must be eligible for maternity pay/leave.” – Paula
“Shared parental leave was introduced in 2015 to give more choice in how two parents choose to care for their child. Essentially, if you are eligible you can choose to convert up to 50 weeks of the mother’s maternity leave into shared parental leave, which can then be split between the mother and the father in different ways. For example, they could choose to both take off 25 weeks at the same time, so you spend the first six months at home together, or they could choose for the mother to take the first six months off and the father the remainder. Although the requirements can be quite complex, shared parental leave is well worth exploring if you want to share the time off between you and your partner.” – Tabitha
Tell us more about shared parental leave – what’s the best way to negotiate it with your employer?
“Shared parental leave is a statutory right in the same way as maternity and paternity leave. Although the requirements are quite complex, it is well worth exploring if you want to share the time off between you. It isn’t governed by the person’s contract and, if they meet the eligibility requirements and follow the correct processes, then a company is obliged to allow an employee to take it. A mother must take at least two weeks of maternity leave under separate regulations (four if she works in a factory) but after that, if you are eligible as a couple, you can choose to convert up to 50 weeks of the mother’s maternity leave into shared parental leave. The mother must notify her employer if she wants to convert the remaining maternity leave to shared parental leave and then set out how she wants to take that remaining leave.
“It is also possible to request discontinuous periods: for example, you both take one month off together then each return to work for alternate months. This type of pattern would be unusual but it is something parents can consider if there is a particular event or occasion the mother wants to be at work for in the period of her leave. However, companies can refuse a request to take leave in this way (known as ‘discontinuous leave’) and so it will very much depend upon the needs of the business and whether they can accommodate it.
“If you take shared parental leave you are also entitled to take up to 37 weeks of shared parental pay between you, which is the same rate as statutory maternity pay (£151.20 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings if lower). As with maternity and paternity pay, companies are able to offer more generous shared parental leave packages if they want to do so. Since April 2020, any contract issued for a new employee must also have details in about these entitlements so that it is easy to access the information for employees.” – Charlotte
What happens if there are health complications for your partner or wife?
“Unfortunately, if your partner or wife has health complications, there are no specific entitlements to an extended period of statutory paternity leave. However, some companies have compassionate leave policies which can offer additional pay leave and may cover this type of situation. Some companies are also prepared to negotiate additional time off on a case-by-case basis, but this is at their discretion. This type of leave may also be unpaid as there is no obligation on the company to offer payment.
“There are other types of leave available to parents and carers and depending on the nature of the complications and your other commitments, these may be options for you. You may be entitled to take time off for dependant’s leave; however, this is also unpaid and is only meant to be used to deal with emergencies and so depending on the situation this may not apply. If you have other children who need looking after, you could consider requesting Parental Leave, which has its own eligibility requirements, but your company can refuse the request to take it if there are good business reasons. Again, it’s unpaid and has to be taken in periods of one week but, if your partner’s health complications require you to care for children, this option may be suitable.” – Charlotte
Do you accrue holiday while on paternity leave?
“Yes, all your normal rights remain the same while you are on paternity leave, other than your salary, which is reduced to statutory paternity pay. This rate alters every year, but is currently £151.20 per week, or 90% of your average weekly earnings if this is lower. This is paid in the same way as your normal salary, so will be included in your monthly or weekly payslip, and will be subject to tax and national insurance. Some employers offer enhanced company pay, but they don’t have to.” – Tabitha