Key points
  • With the coming into force on 8 December 2002 of the Paternity & Adoption Leave Regulations 2002, the biological father (or the responsible parent) of a child born on or after 6 April 2003 (or expected to be born on or after that date) has the qualified right to take one or two consecutive weeks' paternity leave (either, but not both) within 56 days of the child's date of birth. That same right extends to one or other of the parents of a child notified of having been matched with them for adoption (or placed with them for adoption) on or after that same date. A parent who qualifies for paternity leave (birth or adoption) may also be entitled to statutory paternity pay (SSP) during his or her absence from work.

  • To be eligible for paternity leave, an employee must:
    1. have been continuously employed by his employer for a period of not less than 26 weeks by the beginning of the 14th week before the expected week of the child's birth (or would have been continuously employed for that prescribed minimum 26-week period, but for the fact that the child was either born before the beginning of that 14th week or was stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or has died); or
    2. in the case of an adopted child, have been continuously employed by his or her employer for 26 or more weeks by the end of the week in which the child was placed with him or her and/or his or her wife or partner for adoption;
    3. have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing; and
    4. be the child's biological father; or the mother's husband or partner; or, in the case of an adopted child, the adopter's spouse or partner.

  • Employees claiming paternity leave must, if asked to do so by their employers, provide a form of self-certificate as evidence that they meet the eligibility conditions listed above. To that end, employers may either design their own self-certificates or use either of the Inland Revenue's model forms of self-certificate (Form SC3 [birth] or Form SC4 [adoption] available on request from Employer's Orderline on 08457 646 646.

  • It is as well to point out that when a child is placed with an individual or with a couple for adoption, only one of them (male or female) is entitled to take up to 52 weeks' adoption leave. It is up to the couple in question to decide which of them is to take adoption leave. The other partner will then have the right (if eligible) to take one week or two consecutive weeks' paternity leave.
Timing of paternity leave
  • An employee who qualifies for paternity leave must take his or her full entitlement to either one or two consecutive weeks' leave:
    1. within 56 days of the child's date of birth or, if the child was born prematurely, within the period from the actual date of birth up to 56 days after the mother's expected week of childbirth (EWC); or
    2. in the case of an adopted child, within 56 days of the date on which the child was placed with him or her and/or his or her partner for adoption (whether that date occurs sooner or later than expected).
    It should be noted that paternity leave can start on any day of the week beginning with the date on which the child is born or placed with the adopter for adoption or from the first day of the expected week of the child's birth, or from a chosen number of days or weeks after the date of the child's birth or adoption (whether this is earlier or later than expected) so long as the selected start date ensures that the full period of leave is completed within the prescribed 56-day period. Only one period of paternity leave is available, regardless of the number of children born or placed with an individual or couple for adoption.
Notification procedure
  • To exercise their right to paternity leave, eligible employees must inform their employers of their intentions either by the end of the 15th week before the mother's expected week of childbirth (EWC) or, in the case of an adoptive parent or a couple who are adopting, within seven days of the adopter or adopters being notified by an approved adoption agency that he, she or they have been matched with a child. At the same time, an employee must:
    1. specify the mother 's EWC or the date on which the child is expected to be placed for adoption;
    2. whether he (or she) wishes to take one or two weeks' paternity leave; and
    3. when he (or she) wants that period of leave to start.
    Employees who have correctly notified their employers of the date on which they intend to start their paternity leave may change their minds about that start date so long as they inform their employers of that change of mind at least 28 days before the revised start date (or as soon as is reasonably practicable, if circumstances dictate that they are not in a position to give 28 days' advance notice).
Statutory paternity pay
  • To qualify for statutory paternity pay (SPP) during the paternity leave period, an eligible employee must have average weekly earnings equal to or greater than the current lower earnings limit for National Insurance purposes. For 2003/04, that lower earnings limit is £77 per week. SPP is payable at the same standard rate as statutory maternity pay (SMP), ie, £100 a week or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings at the time, whichever is the lower of those amounts. Employers who have lawfully paid SPP to an employee will (as is the case with payments of SMP) be able to recover an amount equal to 92 per cent of the amount paid by deducting it from PAYE tax and NI contributions routinely remitted to the Inland Revenue at the end of each income tax month. Small employers (the total of whose NI contributions did not exceed £40,000 during the preceding tax year) will, on the other hand, be able to recover 100 per cent of the amount of SPP paid, plus a further 4.5 per cent to recoup the additional NI contributions paid on such payments. These figures are reviewed every year.
Return to work after paternity leave
  • Employees returning to work after a period of paternity leave have the legal right to do so in the jobs they held immediately before that period of leave began, without any loss of seniority or pension rights, or any other terms and conditions that would have prevailed but for their absences from work.
Claims and remedies
  • Eligible employees who are denied their entitlement to paternity leave (paid or otherwise), or who are dismissed, selected for redundancy, victimised, or subjected to any other detriment for asserting their rights under the Paternity & Adoption Leave Regulations 2002, may complain to an employment tribunal and will be awarded appropriate compensation if their complaints are upheld.

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