Paternity leave is paid leave given to a father, husband or spouse, child’s adopter or intended parent of a child.
It is extremely important for parents to form an early bond with their child to aid the long-term mental health and resilience of the child. Which is why for any new parent they take leave to spend time with their newborn.
To help you understand everything around paternity leave we have created a guide to UK paternity leave and pay. In this guide, we will cover the legal obligations as an employer, explain the benefits of paternity leave and share a few ideas on how to develop a paternity leave policy that works for your business.
Are employees entitled to paternity leave?
In the UK, employees are allowed to take leave because their partner is having a baby, they are adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement. Through this employees may be eligible for:
– 1 or 2 weeks’ paid Paternity Leave
– Paternity Pay
– Shared Parental Leave and Pay
However, there are certain rules. First, employers are only entitled to paternity leave if they are taking the time off to look after the child. Also, they must be one of the following:
– The father of the child
– The husband or partner of the mother or adopter (and this includes same-sex partners)
– The child’s adopter
– The intended parent, if the baby’s being born through a surrogacy arrangement
And the employer must:
– Be a contracted employee of your company
– Give sufficient notice
– Have been continuously employed by you the employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the “qualifying week” (the 15th week before the baby is due)
For information on what makes employees eligible to take paternity leave, visit the GOV.UK website.
How does paternity leave work?
Employees can either take 1 or 2 weeks of paid paternity leave. Unfortunately, this does not change if there is more than 1 child, i.e. twins. The 1 or 2 weeks of leave must be taken in one go, with a week classed as the same amount of days normally worked in a week. For full-time employees, this will be a full week. For part-time employees, it will be whichever days they usually work.
Paternity leave cannot be taken before the birth of the child and must end within 56 days of the child’s birth. Employees can change the start date of their paternity leave but to do so must provide notice 28 days in advance. This does not have to be a precise date, instead, they can give a general time period. For example, the employee can request their leave to start 1 week after birth.
What is paternity pay and how to calculate it
If the employee wants to take longer than two weeks to look after their new family, they can choose to take paternity pay instead of paternity leave. The employee has a legal right to take either paternity leave or paternity pay, but not both.
The statutory weekly rate of paternity pay is either £148.68 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever figure is lower. The money is paid in the same way as the employee’s wages and it’s eligible for tax and National Insurance.
How paternity leave can boost employee wellbeing
Employee wellbeing is a combination of good physical health and good mental health. It’s influenced by a number of factors, some physical, some social and some psychological.
If you invest in employee wellbeing, you can expect a range of benefits:
– Increased productivity and motivation
– Reduced absenteeism
– Better staff retention
– Improved relationships between staff and management
– An overall happier, healthier and more fulfilled workforce
We recently investigated how some of the world’s most successful businesses manage employee wellbeing. Along with championing exercise and healthy eating, we found that many of these businesses are very generous when it comes to both maternity and paternity leave.
Why? Because employees feel stressed when they feel like work’s getting in the way of the rest of their life. And stressed employees are unhappy, unproductive and very unlikely to bring their best to work.
Paternity leave allows new fathers to spend as much time as possible with their new family in those crucial early days. It empowers families to decide which parent works and which parent raises the children – it can be either or both.
By offering your employees generous paternity leave, not only will you address a common cause of stress and resentment in the workplace, you’ll also send a strong message to your employees that you value them as people. This will show that you’re genuinely invested in their lives and their wellbeing. Which is great for relationships, for motivation and ultimately, for productivity.
How much paternity leave should businesses offer?
It’s up to you to devise a paternity scheme that works for you. You might want to keep things simple. If you are a small business with a small team, you may not be able to afford to offer employees huge amounts of time off. In this case, it might be best to stick to the statutory model.
Many other countries in the world offer very generous amounts of paternity leave. Since introducing the schemes, countries tend to report overall positive developments – divorce and separation rates drop, alcoholism figures fall and children tend to perform better in cognitive development tests.
So paternity leave is good for parents, good for children, good for business and apparently, it’s good for society. So why not be a UK trailblazer and offer more than the bare minimum? Remember, a happy workforce is a happy business.
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Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.