The truth about paternity leave

The truth about paternity leave


Author: Michael Briggs

Applies to: England, Wales and Scotland

Following Prince William's six weeks' of paternity leave, and Richard Branson's offering of 12 months' fully paid paternity leave, there may be confusion about what employers are legally required to offer in respect of paternity leave and pay.


Paternity leave is not a new concept but family friendly rights have been the subject of much debate and change recently. Employers have seen a complete overhaul of the rights that their male (and female) employees can expect to enjoy when raising a family. Part of this overhaul has been the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL).

Virgin recently announced a change in their family friendly policies to give new fathers, mothers and adoptive parents up to 12 months' leave at 100% pay following birth or adoption. However, it was reported that this policy only applied to employees of Virgin Management (Virgin Group's brand licensing and investment division), which has fewer than 140 employees, and where they have over four years' continuous employment. Since the introduction of SPL, Virgin appear to be leading the way with extending the rights and benefits of new parents over and above what employers are actually required to provide. We have therefore set out a summary below of the basic legal paternity rights and entitlements.

Time off

The rights applicable to new fathers (and partners) include:

Ordinary Paternity Leave (OPL): entitles all qualifying fathers (or partners) to take either one whole week or two consecutive weeks of paternity leave within 56 days of the birth of their child, or placement of an adopted child. In this time, a father's employment rights, such as accrual of holidays and payment of benefits will remain protected. Unless the parents opt to share their leave via SPL, two weeks is the maximum period of OPL.

Additional Paternity Leave (APL): still applies for fathers (or partners) whose children were born or placed for adoption prior to 5 April 2015 and allows a father to take up to 26 weeks of APL, provided that the mother has returned to work and ceased her maternity leave. Whilst APL may still be available for some fathers, this will now only be a small percentage given that most new parents will be within the remit of SPL instead.

Shared Parental Leave: is now available for all fathers (or partners) of children born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. In order for a father (or partner) to be able to start SPL, the mother must have ended her maternity leave and either returned to work, or given notice to her employer of the date that she will be returning. At this point, if the intention is to take SPL, the father (or partner) must give written notice to their employer that they are intending to take SPL and receive Shared Parental Pay, and when this will start. At least 8 weeks' notice must be given prior to the start of any leave.


During OPL, eligible employees will receive Statutory Paternity Pay, which is currently set at £139.58 or 90% of weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Additional Paternity Pay (APP) will be payable to the small minority who remain eligible. APP can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks at the statutory rate of £139.58 or 90% of weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Shared Parental Pay is also paid at the statutory rate of £139.58 or 90% of weekly earnings, whichever is lower. This is the same as the rate for Statutory Maternity Pay, apart from the first 6 weeks, in which statutory maternity pay is paid at 90% of earnings, with no maximum limit.

Employers, at their discretion, may also have in place enhanced rates of pay for paternity and/or shared parental pay.

Antenatal appointments

Father and partners are entitled to accompany their partner (or surrogate mother) to two unpaid antenatal appointments. If a couple are adopting a child, the secondary adopter will also be entitled to attend two antenatal appointments after the couple has been matched with a child.

It is important that fathers and partners of pregnant women, or the primary adopter, are aware of their rights. Employers should therefore ensure that their policies on paternity rights and other family friendly rights are kept up to date so that they are best placed to deal requests for eave and pay.


This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

About the Author

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Michael Briggs

Senior Associate

0370 086 5066

Michael is an experienced employment lawyer who provides practical, commercial and results-driven advice to a wide range of clients in respect of disciplinary matters, redundancy & reorganisation, absence and performance issues, employment contracts & handbooks and executive appointment & exits. Michael also defends employment tribunal claims.

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