When your wife, partner or civil partner gives birth or adopts a child, you may be entitled to paternity pay or paternity leave.
To be entitled to Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay (OSPP), you must have, or expect to have, responsibility for the baby’s upbringing, and be the biological father or adopter of the baby (or husband/partner/civil partner of the adopter). You must have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due, or be employed up to and including the week your wife/partner/civil partner was matched with a child. You must also be earning an average of at least £102 a week before tax and national insurance deductions.
If you are entitled to paternity pay, it will be paid for 1 or 2 consecutive weeks at the rate of £128.73, or 90% of your average weekly earnings if this is lower. Your OSPP will be paid to you in the same way as your wages. Your employer may ask you to complete a self-certificate Form SC3, which confirms that you are entitled to OSPP.
You must inform your employer when you intend to take your Ordinary Paternity Leave by the 15th week before your baby is due, or as soon as possible if you cannot give your notice within this period. You are entitled to take 1 or 2 weeks paternity leave, but these must be taken as full weeks, and not odd days. Your paternity leave must be completed within 8 weeks of your baby’s actual date of birth.
Some employers have their own paternity leave arrangements so you should check your contract of employment. You cannot be offered less than your statutory entitlement. If you are unable to claim statutory paternity leave, your employer may be prepared to give you unpaid leave, or to allow you to take paid holidays instead. If you qualify for paternity leave but not OSPP, you may qualify for income support while you are on leave.
You may also have the right to take up to 26 weeks Additional Paternity Leave. This will be in addition to your 2 weeks of ordinary paternity leave. To take additional paternity leave, the child’s mother or adopter must have returned to work. If you want to take this additional leave, you must tell your employer, at least 8 weeks before you want to start your leave, when the baby is due, the actual date of the baby’s birth, and when you want to start and finish your additional paternity leave.
If you think that your employers decision is wrong, you should first speak to your employer, or alternatively, contact HMRC employees enquiry line on 0845 302 1479.
For more information on paternity leave and paternity pay, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Further guidance can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk or by contacting the Labour Relations Agency on 02809032 1442.
Sian Fisher is an Information Officer with Citizens Advice.