Friday 19 November is International Men’s Day; a day to celebrate male role models and raise awareness of men’s wellbeing. This year’s theme is “better relations between men and women”, which focuses on one of International Men’s Day’s key objectives; improving gender relations and promoting gender equality for men and women. With that in mind, in this blog, we’re shining a spotlight on the important legal right to paternity leave and pay.
This is particularly important in the context of a recent report by law firm EMW, which highlighted that take up of paternity leave in the UK has fallen to a 10 year low. According to the report, just over a quarter of eligible new fathers took up paternity leave in 2020-21, despite the positive impact that paternity leave can have on both families and businesses alike. Not only does a period of paternity leave allow fathers to share childcare responsibilities at home, but it will likely also improve their wellbeing and morale if they feel supported by their employer to take time off.
As an employer, it’s a good idea to ensure that managers understand what family leave your employees are entitled to. As a starting point, it’s important to be aware of the minimum rights your employees have by law; whether you choose to offer enhanced provisions over and above the legal minimum will be a commercial decision for your business.
Paternity leave and pay
Statutory paternity leave is a period of either one or two consecutive weeks’ leave from work in order to care for a newborn or recently adopted child. Your business may of course offer an enhanced paternity leave policy which entitles your staff to more time off.
Not all of your staff will be eligible to take paternity leave (unless you have a contractual policy that says otherwise); generally only staff who are employees will be eligible. They must have been continuously employed by you for at least 26 weeks ending with the fifteenth week before the expected week of childbirth, or for adoption, at least 26 weeks before the week in which your employee and their partner are notified of having been matched with the child. There are other eligibility criteria you need to be aware of depending on your employee’s situation (eg whether their partner is giving birth or they are adopting from the UK or overseas). For a full rundown, see our Q&A.
Importantly, if your employee has already taken a period of shared parental leave to care for the child in question, they won’t be entitled to take statutory paternity leave (although they may be able to take shared parental leave after a period of paternity leave). See Shared parental leave and pay for guidance about shared parental leave.
The earliest date statutory paternity leave can start is the day on which the child is born, or if your employee is adopting, the day on which the child is placed with them for adoption (or enters Great Britain if they are adopting from overseas). Statutory paternity leave must end within 56 days of that date.
Most of your staff who are eligible for statutory paternity leave will also be eligible for statutory paternity pay (SPP) whilst they are on leave.
They must have earned at least £120 per week (before tax) on average over the eight weeks before the end of the fifteenth week before the expected week of childbirth or, if they’re adopting, before the week they were notified as having been matched with a child.
SPP is currently £151.97 per week, or 90% of your employee’s normal weekly earnings, whichever amount is lower. HMRC has a helpful calculator you can use to calculate your employee’s normal weekly earnings.
You can recover at least 92% of your SPP payments from HMRC, or the full amount if your National Insurance bill will be less than £45,000 that year.
Importantly, if your business offers enhanced paternity pay, you should pay this in accordance with your paternity leave policy and your employee will not be entitled to SPP on top of this.
Do I need a paternity leave policy?
It’s best practice to put in place a paternity leave policy so that your staff are clear about what their rights and obligations are. Bear in mind that you must provide new casual workers and employees with written details about any paid leave they are entitled to on or before their first day of work; providing them with clear policies on your paternity and other family related leave rights will help you to comply.
Your policy should set out whether your business simply offers the minimum rights required by law, or whether you have an enhanced policy which goes above and beyond this.
If you don’t have a paternity policy already, our template Staff handbook contains a paternity leave policy that you can create either on its own or as part of a full employee handbook.
Organising paternity leave
If an employee wants to take paternity leave, there are certain administrative steps that you will need to take. Our Paternity toolkit contains a ‘how-to guide’ taking you through the process, and includes all of the documents that you’re likely to need.
1. Your employee gives you notice
Your employees must give you notice that they intend to take paternity leave and claim SPP. Their notice must contain specific information (such as the expected week of childbirth or adoption placement and how much time they intend to take off and when).
This notice must usually be provided at least 15 weeks before the due date, or within 7 days of being matched with a child if they are adopting from the UK.
2. Write to your employee to confirm arrangements
It’s good practice for you to respond to your employee in writing to confirm the arrangements for their paternity leave.
3. Your employee confirms the date of the child’s birth or placement
As soon as reasonably practicable, your employee should inform you of either the child’s birth or, in adoption cases, the date of the placement.
4. Arrange payment of SPP
If your employee is eligible, you should arrange to pay them SPP (or enhanced paternity pay, if you offer it) on their usual pay days. SPP is subject to deductions for National Insurance and income tax.
5. Keep good records
You must maintain records of the SPP you have paid to an employee for three years following the end of the tax year in which it was paid. Our Q&A provides further guidance about what the records should cover.
Before joining Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2017, Frankie spent five years training and practising as a corporate disputes and investigations lawyer at leading international law firm Hogan Lovells. As legal insights lead, Frankie regularly contributes to Sparqa Legal’s blog, writing content across employment law, data protection, disputes and more.