Fathers can and do take paternity leave but they are not the only ones eligible. Women notably may now be entitled to avail of paternity leave depending on circumstances.
An employee qualifies for paternity leave and pay provided they satisfy the relevant qualifying conditions:
- Are the father of the child or is the mother's husband or partner (including same-sex partner or civil partner). A partner is someone who lives with the mother of the baby in an enduring family relationship but is not an immediate relative.
- Has, or expects to have, responsibility for the child's upbringing.
In addition, they must:
- Have at least 26 weeks' continuous employment with you ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) - the qualifying week.
- Be working for you from the qualifying week up to the date of birth. If their contract ends before the birth, they do not qualify for PL - unless they go on to work for an associated employer. If their contract ends after the birth of the baby, they retain their right to paternity leave (and pay if they qualify).
- Have notified you of their intention to take paternity leave - see employee notification of paternity leave - births.
- Be taking the time off to support the mother and/or care for the baby.
However, an employee will not qualify for paternity leave if they have previously taken shared parental leave in respect of the child.
You should treat the employee as having the necessary length of service if:
- the baby is born earlier than the 14th week before the EWC
- the birth hadn't occurred early, the employee would have been employed continuously by you for the 26 weeks
If you think the employee doesn't qualify for paternity leave but they dispute this, contact the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) Helpline on Tel 03300 555 300.
For more information on how much paternity leave eligible employees can take and when their leave can start, see the start and duration of paternity leave - births and surrogacy births.
For information on how eligible employees should notify you that they intend to take paternity leave, see employee notification of paternity leave - births.
Multiple births and paternity leave
Paternity leave remains at two weeks regardless of the number of children resulting from a single pregnancy.
Stillbirths and paternity leave
If an employee's wife or partner gives birth to a stillborn baby, they are still entitled to paternity leave - but only if the birth happens after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
If the stillbirth occurs before the end of the 24th week of pregnancy, you could allow the employee to take sick or compassionate leave instead.
Death of mother
The employee is still entitled to paternity leave if they would have been entitled to it but for the fact that the mother of the baby has died.
Miscarriage and paternity leave
Where a pregnancy ends before 24 weeks and the child does not survive, the father (or mother's special spouse/partner) will not be eligible for paternity leave. They may still be able to take some time off as unpaid parental leave. If the employee would have qualified for parental leave, but for the fact that the child was stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or has died, they are still entitled to parental leave.
Death of baby during or after the day of birth
If the baby is born alive but then later dies, the employee is still entitled to paternity leave.
Enhanced paternity leave
If you wish, you can have enhanced paternity leave arrangements to attract and retain employees.
For example, you could allow all employees to take two weeks' paternity leave - regardless of their length of service.
You can offer these arrangements either as a contractual right or on a discretionary, case-by-case basis. If exercising discretion, caution should be taken to avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination.
Shared parental leave and pay
In addition, fathers/partners may be eligible for shared parental leave and pay, which was introduced in Northern Ireland in April 2015.