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Mouthy Money Your Questions Answered panellist Amy Dowling answers a reader’s question about how to ask for more paternity leave.
Question: My wife is about to have our first baby, I only have two weeks paternity leave, can I negotiate more?
Answer: Planning for a new baby is an incredibly exciting time but it can also be daunting.
Paternity leave allows an employee to support their partner and spend time with a new child following their birth or adoption and provides eligible employees with up to two weeks’ paid leave. You can choose whether to take one or two weeks in a row but cannot take separate weeks or odd days.
You are entitled to the same leave even if you are having more than one child and you must take the leave within 56 days of the birth or adoption (or when the baby would have been due if earlier). You can start paternity leave on any day and could choose to start it on the day of the birth or a fixed later date after birth.
You will need to carefully check that you meet the eligibility criteria for Paternity Leave and Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP). You must be an employee to qualify for paternity leave. You will need to be the father, mother’s husband or partner (including same sex partners and civil partners) and be responsible for the child and taking time off to care for them or support the mother.
Agency, casual, freelance workers and workers on zero hours contracts can also get SPP if they meet the required conditions and their employer pays their wages and deducts tax and National Insurance. If that is the case, you will need to agree time off with your employer/agency while you stop work to receive SPP.
In order to qualify for paternity leave and pay you will need to have been employed by the same employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due (this means you need to have worked for the same employer for the first 26 weeks of the pregnancy) and still be employed by the same employer up to the start of your leave.
You will also need to earn at least £123 per week (April 2023 – April 2024) on average, before tax, in the eight weeks (if paid weekly) or two months (if paid monthly) before the 15th week before your baby is born.
SPP is paid by your employer for up to two weeks and is £172.48 per week (April 2023 – April 2024) or 90% of your average earnings if that is lower. Your employer may offer an enhanced paternity pay package and your contract or your employer’s policies will have details of this.
You will need to give your employer notice to take paternity leave and pay by the 15th week before your baby is due. If you are late or your baby is born prematurely you should give notice as soon as possible.
You can also take annual leave before or after paternity leave and you should ensure that you give your employer the correct notice to book holiday.
The only other option for extended leave for fathers and partners is Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP), however, both you and your partner must meet the qualifying conditions and your partner must reduce her maternity or adoption leave so that it can be transferred to you. You can take Shared Parental Leave at the same time as the mother or separately and you can take it up to a year from the birth.
The qualifying conditions for SPL and ShPP are broadly the same as for paternity leave and pay, however, where a parent takes SPL their partner will need to have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks (not necessarily continuously) in the period of 66 weeks leading up to the expected week of childbirth and earn at least £30 a week on average in 13 of those weeks.
The mother or primary adopter will need to qualify for maternity/adoption leave and/or Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance (including self-employed mothers) and transfer some of her leave and pay so that her partner can take it as SPL and ShPP. You are also able to undertake up to 20 days’ work (if agreed) during SPL without bringing it to an end.
ShPP is paid by your employer and is £172.48 a week (April 2023 – April 2024) or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower, and you may be entitled to more if your employer offers it. You should check the terms and conditions very carefully. You will need to make sure you give your employer the correct notice in order to qualify.
Both parents are entitled to take 18 weeks’ Parental Leave to care for a child which applies per child up to your child’s 18th birthday. Unless you have a disabled child you are only allowed to take it in blocks of a week or more. You can usually only take up to 4 weeks’ parental leave per child per year. You must be an employee and have a years’ continuous service.
Unfortunately, parental leave is unpaid leave but some employers may provide some paid family leave. You must give at least 21 days’ notice. If you give notice to take it when your baby is born or placed for adoption, your employer cannot postpone it. At all other times your employer cannot refuse your request but can postpone it once for up to six months if they can show that it would cause disruption to the business. Your employer cannot postpone parental leave for any other reason.
All parents can also take time off for dependants without giving notice if there is an emergency and until you have made alternative arrangements. You must be an employee and it does not matter how long you have been in your current job or how many hours a week you work for this. Employers do not have to pay you for any time you take off to look after your family or other dependants although some employers do offer this so check your contract or ask your HR department.
We often hear concerns raised regarding how much leave an employee is planning to take and how this can be viewed by an employer. It is worth being aware that it is unlawful for an employer to dismiss or treat you unfairly for taking, or planning to take paternity leave, shared parental leave, unpaid parental leave or emergency time off for dependants.
Your rights on return to work may vary slightly depending on what type of leave and how much leave you have taken. If you are dismissed or treated unfairly for taking time off you can make a claim in an Employment Tribunal and you should seek further advice. You must start a tribunal claim within three months, less one day, from the date of the act or series of acts you are complaining about.
You must contact ACAS Early Conciliation within the time limit on 0300 123 11 00 before starting a claim. You must also give the correct notice for all these rights, you can find more information at: https://www.acas.org.uk/ or https://maternityaction.org.uk/.
Amy is an experienced employment lawyer who has worked in private practice in city firms for a number of years acting for employers and employees. She has worked at Maternity Action for four years and advises existing and expectant parents on a wide range of employment issues and benefits and provides casework support. Amy enjoys training and writing about employment issues. She also writes official law reports on leading European judgments for the International Council of Law Reporting. Outside of work she enjoys yoga, reading and spending time with her family.
Photo credits: Pexels
Award-winning freelance journalist with a decade of experience working for online and print publications in the consumer sector.