An employee qualifies for paternity leave on the birth of a baby if they:
- Have - or expect to have - responsibility for the baby's upbringing.
- Are the biological father of the baby and/or 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.
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, 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 028 9032 1442.
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.
For information on how eligible employees should notify you that they intend to take paternity leave, see employee notification of paternity leave - births.
Paternity leave remains at two weeks regardless of the number of children resulting from a single pregnancy.
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 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.