The government is committed to promoting family friendly policies and, as of 6 April 2003, has introduced paid paternity leave. The allowances apply where the baby is born, on or after, 6 April 2003.

Leave

Eligible employees will have 26 weeks continuous service for the same employer, at the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC). Paternity leave rights are afforded to employees who are responsible for the baby's upbringing, are the baby's biological father or the mother's husband or partner (partner refers to someone who lives with the mother, either male or female, in an enduring family relationship, but who is not a blood relative).

Qualifying employees are entitled to take 2 weeks paid paternity leave. This must be taken within 8 weeks of the child's birth or, where the child is born earlier than expected, between the date of birth and 56 days from the first day of the EWC. Leave is available in one block of either one or two weeks, not two separate weeks. This leave allowance is in addition to the right to 13 weeks unpaid parental leave, for parents with children born, on or after 15 December 1994.

Only one period of leave is available to employees irrespective of whether more than one child is born as the result of the same pregnancy.

Pay

Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) follows the same formula as SMP. For babies born on or after 6 April 2003 SPP is £102.80 per week. If earnings are less than the statutory amounts, employees will be paid at 90% of average weekly earnings. Employees must have average weekly earnings at or above the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance at the 15th week before the EWC. Employers can and do pay above these statutory amounts.

To help relieve the strain on small businesses, they can recover the amount of SPP they pay out in the same way as they can claim back Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Employers can claim back 92% of the payments they make, with those eligible for small employers relief able to claim back 100% plus an additional amount in compensation for the employer's portion of National Insurance contributions paid on SPP. Employers that pay over and above the statutory minimum requirement for SPP can only claim back the statutory amounts not the full cost of the SPP payments paid to their staff.

Contractual benefits

Terms and conditions of employment including holiday leave and pay accrue during the paternity leave period, bar terms relating to wages and salary (unless the contract of employment provides otherwise). If more favourable terms are stipulated in the contract of employment the employee may take advantage of these over and above the statutory rights.

Notification

Employees must notify their employers of their wish to take paternity leave and their intention to claim paternity pay, no later than the 15th week before the EWC.

Notification should include intended dates of leave. An employee may change the commencement date provided he gives his employer at least 28 days' notice of the new start date.

The employee must also give his employer a signed declaration confirming that he is taking leave either to care for the child or to support the mother, has or expects to have responsibility for the upbringing of the child, is the father of the child and/or the husband or partner of the mother. The employee must inform his employer of the date of the child's birth as soon as practicable after the birth.

Employees are required to present their employers with a completed self-certificate as evidence of their entitlement to SPP. This can act as evidence of entitlement to paternity leave and pay.

Protection from dismissal and detriment

Employees are entitled to return to the same job following paternity leave. Employees are protected from suffering unfair treatment or dismissal for taking, or seeking to take, paternity leave. Employees who believe they have been treated unfairly can complain to an Employment Tribunal.