December 7, 2017

A simple guide to paternity leave for HR managers

Legislation with regards to parental leave keeps changing so it’s really important that HR keeps up to date. At DPG, we receive a lot of queries about paternity leave and the rights of new fathers. That’s why we have created a simple guide to current paternity leave in the UK – everything that an HR manager needs to know.

Paternity leave
Providing they are eligible, fathers are entitled to one or two weeks of paid paternity leave around the birth of their child, if they are adopting a child or if they have a surrogacy arrangement.

What’s the eligibility criteria?

  • The male has to be one of the following: the father, the husband or partner of the mother (or adopter), the child’s adopter or the intended parent (this relates to people having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement).
  • Fathers are not eligible for paternity leave and pay if they have taken time off to attend adoption appointments.
  • The father must be an employee who has been in continuous employment at your organisation for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. This is called the ‘qualifying week’. The rules are slightly different for adopters. The adopter has to have worked as an employee for your organisation for at least 26 weeks before what is called the ‘matching week’. The ‘matching week’ is either the end of the week that the father is matched with the child with UK adoptions. Or it is the date the child enters the UK or when the fathers wants paternity pay to start in the case of overseas adoptions.
  • The correct notice needs to be given. This means that the father has to tell their employer three things at least 15 weeks before the baby is expected. Those three things are: the baby’s due date, when they want the leave to start (the day of the birth or one or two weeks after, for example) and if they want to take one or two weeks’ leave.

Parental leave
Fathers are entitled to more than just one or two weeks off after the arrival of a new child (provided they meet the eligibility criteria). In 2015, new laws came into effect that gave UK parents the right to share leave after the birth or adoption of a child. This is known as shared parental leave (SPL) and it replaces the previous entitlement, called ‘additional paternity leave’. The new legislation entitles parents to up to 50 weeks of leave (37 of which are paid), provided they meet certain criteria.

Shared parental leave allows fathers and mothers to take leave in blocks, separated by periods of work, rather than one person taking leave in one chunk. Parents are entitled to up to three separate blocks and fathers can take those blocks at a different time to their partner or at the same time.

The leave must be taken between the baby’s birth and its first birthday. Or in the case of adopters, within a year of adopting.

However, there are rules for fathers to adhere to in order to be eligible for shared parental leave. They must tell their employers how they plan to take their leave when they apply. They are allowed to change those plans, but need to give their employers at least eight weeks’ notice before they want to begin a block of leave. Fathers must also share responsibility for the child with one of the following:

  • husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter
  • the child’s other parent
  • their partner

They or their partner must be eligible for maternity pay or leave, adoption pay or leave or maternity allowance.

Plus, they have to have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date or by the date they were matched with their adopted child. They also have to stay with their employer while on shared parental leave.

There are some rules concerning the father’s partner as well. During the 66 weeks before the baby’s due date (or the week they are matched with their adopted child), the partner has to meet the following criteria:

  • they must have been working for at least 26 weeks, although it doesn’t have to be in a row
  • they must have earned at least £390 in total in 13 of the 66 weeks, and again, those weeks don’t have to be in a row

The father’s partner doesn’t have to be an employee – they can be a worker or self employed person. Nor do they have to be working at the date of birth or when shared parental leave starts.

Some employers allow fathers to take their blocks in shorter periods, of at least a week.

There’s also something called shared parental leave in touch (SPLIT) days. These are when parents can each work up to 20 days while taking shared parental leave. These days are in addition to the 10 keeping in touch (KIT) days offered to people on maternity or adoption leave.

Both SPLIT and KIT days are optional and have to be agreed between the employee and employer.

Paternity pay
As well as paternity leave, HR needs to know what pay fathers are entitled to. The rules around pay are similar to the rules around leave, focusing on length of employment and notice procedures. In order to receive paternity pay, fathers have to:

  • have worked for your organisation continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the qualifying week (the expected week of childbirth) or the ‘matching week’ for adopting parents or those in a surrogacy arrangement. That matching week is either the end of the week that the father is matched with the child in the case of UK adoptions, or the date the child enters the UK or when the father wants the pay to start for overseas adoptions.
  • be employed by your organisation up to the date of the birth
  • earn at least £113 a week, before tax
  • give the correct notice. That correct notice is the father telling your organisation three things at least 15 weeks before the week the baby is expected. Those three things are: the baby’s due date, when they want the leave to start (such as the day of the birth or a week or two after the birth) and if they want to take one or two weeks’ leave.

To find out more about our CIPD programmes in HR or L&D, call us on 0330 660 0220.