Paternity leave

Maternity leave gets covered a lot in the media, and rightfully so. Sadly, paternity leave is usually left out of the conversation. With more and more dads getting involved in the early stage of their children’s lives we thought it’s about time that changed. So, how much paternity leave do you get? When can you take paternity leave? And what about if you’re self-employed? Read on as The Mix gives you the facts.

A young man is looking at his phone. He is thinking about paternity leave. This is a wide-angle image.

What is paternity leave?

New dads are legally entitled to take time off work to spend with their newborn. This is called paternity leave. Just like maternity leave, being discriminated against for taking time to be with your newborn is illegal. You can’t lose your job or be penalised for choosing to use your paternity leave.

Who’s entitled to it?

You’re entitled to paternity leave if you are:

  • The father
  • The husband or partner of the mother (or adopter), including same-sex partners
  • The child’s adopter
  • The intended parent if you’re having a baby via a surrogate

It’s important to note that you aren’t entitled to paternity leave if you’ve taken paid time off to be matched with a child in the process of adopting a child. So if that’s your situation, you might need to plan ahead slightly.

How long can you leave work for?

If you’re an employee, then you can:

  • Choose to take either one or two weeks off as your full Paternity Leave
  • Take up to 50 weeks of leave as Shared Parental Leave (if you’re eligible)

Self-employed paternity pay & leave

Unfortunately, self-employed new dads have no legal right to paternity pay or paternity leave. The only way you can only claim it is if you’re under an employee. We suppose you could just give yourself self-employed paternity pay. It just wouldn’t be legally recognised.

When can you take paternity leave?

The law expects Paternity Leave to start within 56 days of your baby being born. Alternatively you can take Shared Parental Leave at any time during the first year after the birth. But you can’t take it after taking Shared Parental Leave, only before. 

How much is SPP?

Let’s get down to some figures about paternity leave and pay. Statutory paternity pay (SPP) is £151.97 a week, or 90% of your average weekly earnings if that’s lower. Some generous employers offer more so you might get lucky (again). The rate stays the same if you decide to take Shared Parental Leave.

Can I take Paternity Leave?

To be eligible for Paternity Leave, you’re required to:

  • Take it all in one big chunk. Sorry, you can’t just pick and choose which days suit you (we know, kind of frustrating).
  • Have been working for your employer when the baby was conceived (if you cba to do the math you’ll should have been working for 26 weeks when your partner is in their 15th week of pregnancy).

For Shared Parental Leave:

  • You have to take the time off solely to care for your child (well, d’uh, obviously).
  • The child’s mother should’ve started working again or have given their employer a ‘binding notice’ of when they plan to return to work. This means both of you can be off at the same time. More hands to help take care of the baby, especially if you have multiples.

Giving your boss notice

Unfortunately, you can’t just send your boss an email during the day(s) of the birth saying that you’re not gonna be in the office for a while. You’re legally obligated to tell them at least 15 weeks before the due date and probably also have to fill in an SC3 FORM. For Shared Parental Leave, it changes to at least eight weeks before you take it. If you wanna change the start date for any of these situations, you have to give your employer at least 28 days notice.

Want more help? Check out the rest of our workers’ rights and pay resources here. You can also check out the government’s guidance on this topic here. Questions or thoughts on paternity pay? Reach out to the community on our discussion boards.

Next Steps


leaving work

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 12-Feb-2022