What paternity rights do employees have?

Employers may believe that new fathers only have the right to paternity leave, but in fact they may be entitled to a number of other types of leave and may have access to a wide range of employment rights once the baby is born and as the child grows up.

In this article, we will outline employees’ key rights.

Paternity leave and pay

Employees who fulfil the eligible requirements can take one or two weeks of paternity leave for the purposes of caring for a child or to support the child’s mother. This must be taken in one consecutive period and within 56 days of the child’s birth.

During paternity leave, employees are entitled to their normal contractual terms and conditions, with the exception of their salary. Most likely, they will be entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP). At present, the rate of SPP is £145.18 a week or 90% of the employee’s average earnings (whichever is lower).

They also have the right to return to their normal role with the same terms and conditions if they have only taken paternity leave. They must also not suffer any disadvantage by any act, or any intentional failure to act, by you as a result of them taking, or seeking to take, paternity leave.

[infobox] Exclusive Bonus: Get the Definitive Guide to Paternity Leave and Pay for more detailed information about the eligibility requirements and when leave can begin. Download Now[/infobox]

Shared parental leave

Shared parental leave is a flexible form of leave available to both parents. If the eligibility and notice requirements are met, the new parents can decide how to share up to 50 weeks of leave to care for the child.

However, an employee who wishes to take both paternity leave and shared parental leave must first take paternity leave.

At present, Statutory Shared Parental Pay is £145.18 or 90% of the employee’s average earnings (whichever is lower).

Parental leave

Employees with one year’s continuous service may also be entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child. This can commence once the child is born or placed for adoption, but it is also available at any time up until the child’s 18th birthday.

This is a separate right to leave which should not be confused with Shared Parental Leave.

Time off for antenatal appointments

An expectant father has the right to take time off work to accompany a pregnant woman to her antenatal appointments.

They can attend up to a maximum of two appointments with each time capped at 6 hours and 30 minutes per appointment.

There is no statutory obligation placed on employers to pay the accompanying partner for the time off.

Time off for dependants

Under the Employment Rights Act, all employees are entitled to a take reasonable time off for dependants. This right so employees can deal with emergencies and unforeseen matters involving a dependant.

New fathers may be required to exercise this right to time off to

  • make care arrangements for a child who is ill or injured
  • cope with unexpected disruptions, termination or breakdown in care arrangements for the child
  • manage an unexpected incident which involves the child during school time.

Employers are under no statutory obligation to pay for this time off. How long the employee can take will depend on the circumstances – it could be a few hours or a couple of days.

Request for flexible working

Although any employee who meets the eligibility requirements can apply to work flexibly, new fathers may be particularly interested in requesting changes in order to take up care responsibilities.

They can request to change:

  • the hours they work (e.g. they want to work fewer hours)
  • the times they are required to work (e.g. they wish to start at 10am rather than 9am)
  • where they work (e.g. an employee wants to work from home on Wednesdays).

Remember, employees have a statutory right to request flexible working, but there is no right to flexible working. Therefore you can refuse, but you must show that you have considered the request in a reasonable manner and have refused for a clear business reason, for example, an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff or an inability to recruit additional staff.

[infobox] Exclusive Bonus: Get the Definitive Guide to Paternity Leave and Pay to learn everything you need to know about managing paternity leave requests in your business. Download Now[/infobox]

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