Paternity leave in the UK

Given that it’s the mum who gives birth, it’s perhaps unsurprising that maternity leave tends to be thought of as more important than paternity leave. But there’s growing evidence that dads’ taking time off in the early weeks and months of their children’s lives has a significant positive impact on families – probably more so than you might expect… 


What is paternity leave?

There are two types of parenting leave that governments and employers can make available to new dads and mums.

The first type of leave is designed to be taken (normally in one block) straight after the birth of a child.  Maternity leave for mothers is intended to help them recover from the birth and establish a relationship with their newborn. Paternity leave for dads is to enable them to support the mother in the first few weeks, and also to establish a relationship with baby.

The UK’s parenting leave system is based on a maternity/paternity leave model. Mums receive up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, of which the first 6 weeks must be paid at 90% of salary and the remaining 33 weeks at a minimum statutory rate; dads get just 2 weeks’ paternity leave, paid at a minimum statutory rate (see below).

The second type of leave is parental leave, which is taken by either or both parents in order to look after the baby during its first year.

In the Nordic countries, well-paid parental leave forms the majority of the leave available to parents, and a significant proportion of it is earmarked specifically for dads in the form of a ‘daddy quota’; Sweden has increased this to 90 days.

Since 2015 eligible mothers in the UK have been able to transfer all but the first two weeks of their maternity leave to their partners (if also eligible) under so-called ‘shared parental leave’ – but dads still have no individual entitlement to parental leave, and the rate of pay remains at employers’ discretion.  

Why take paternity leave?

Around 90% of UK fathers take formal leave of some kind near the time of their child’s birth, although in many cases this includes some annual leave – and research shows that this brings all sorts of benefits to the family.

First, it affects mothers’ health and wellbeing. An analysis of data on more than 4,000 women from an English national maternity survey found that mums whose partners had taken no paternity leave were more likely to report feeling ill or unwell at three months, and mothers with more than one child whose partners took no leave also reported much higher rates of post-natal depression.

Secondly, dads who take paternity leave tend to do more hands-on caring for their babies. One UK study found that fathers who took formal leave were 25% more likely to change nappies and 19% more likely to feed their 8-12 month old babies and to get up to them at night. This was irrespective of their commitment to parenting before the child’s birth, or the time mothers or other family members spent with the children.

Crucially, evidence suggests that this kind of paternal involvement, if established during the early weeks, can last through to toddlerhood and beyond. In an Australian study, fathers who took 10 or more days off work around childbirth were found to be more likely to be involved in childcare-related activities when children were 2 to 3 years old, for example.

And this greater sharing of the hands-on caring during paternity leave and beyond can improve your relationship as a couple. In Norway, following an increase in fathers’ leave-taking due to the introduction of a four-week ‘daddy quota’, researchers identified an 11% lower level of conflict over household division of labour. In neighbouring Sweden, couples in which the father took more than 2 weeks to care for their first child were found to be 30% less likely to separate.

Thirdly, those whose fathers take paternity leave tend to do better. They are significantly more likely to be breastfed at two, four and six months of age, for example, and at age 3 they are less likely to have development problems.

In Sweden, an increase in fathers’ share of parental leave over time has been paralleled by a downward trend in rates of injury to children aged 0-4; in Australia, children whose dads take long leave perform better in cognitive development tests and are more likely to be prepared for school aged 4-5.

And fourthly, dads themselves can benefit.Swedish fathers who took paternity leave in the late 1970s were found to have had an 18% lower risk of alcohol-related care and/or death than other fathers, and a 16% overall reduced risk of early death.

Read more in the Fatherhood Institute Research Summary: Paternity Leave. 

Policy-wise, UK paternity leave – which was introduced as recently as 2003 - remains an afterthought, compared to our much more generous maternity leave provision. But while it’s far from financially lucrative, taking it might just keep your child safer, save your marriage and even prolong your life! So check out what you’re entitled to below… 

Paternity leave: your rights

In the UK, qualifying dads can take up to 2 weeks’ paternity leave; legally, it should be taken in one-week chunks.

To be eligible for paternity leave, you must take the time off to look after the child (and its mother) and you must be either the father of the child; the adopter of the child; the husband or partner of the mother (or adopter); or the intended parent (if you’re having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement).

You must be an employee who has worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (known as the ‘qualifying week’) – or the end of the ‘matching week’ if you’re adopting. You must also have given your employer the correct amount of notice.

To qualify for paternity pay you must earn at least £113 a week (before tax). The statutory weekly rate of Paternity Pay is £140.98, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Any money you get is paid in the same way as your wages, eg monthly or weekly. Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

Some employers top up paternity pay – the London School of Economics offers 2 weeks’ leave on full pay, for example - but many don’t. And if you’re self-employed, unemployed or an agency worker, for example, you’re not entitled to anything.


Find out more at the Government website


Updated: March 2018

Hide comments (43)


  • Guest
    Neil Wednesday, 05 April 2017

    Paternity leave

    Dads are entitled to 2 weeks off with paternity leave, so if you work 5 days on and 3 days off. Dose the paternity leave just cover the days you work or dose it also count with your days you have off as well

  • Guest
    Marian Thursday, 04 May 2017

    Paternity holiday

    Hi, i am working in uk for 3 years like employed and my girfriend will deliver in another country the baby.i am not British and in am wondering if i can ask for paternity holiday 2 weeks , and if they can refuse to give me?i can get paid ? My mother died last month , her mother sis months ago and she doesn t has any help!!!!

    Thank you snd regards

  • Guest
    Mark Wednesday, 07 June 2017

    Was off sick

    Hi ,
    I have worked for the company for over 2 years last November I had a motorcycle accident which unfortunately caused me to go on sick leave till January this yeah. I have been on reduced hours since then but in December my wife and I found out we were expecting. I told my boss as soon as we found out My boss gave me the week of the due date off work however my daughter didn't arrive until the week after am I still entitled to be paid debtor being off sick

  • Guest
    Ben Tuesday, 13 June 2017

    Paternity leave entitlement?

    I've read all the information about how people qualify for peternity leave. After recently finding out that I will be having a baby in December I did I qualifying test online, the test asked if I started work before 11th march 17. Unfortunately I started on the 14th march 17. So I got the results as no entitled to any leave or any pay.

    Is there any leighway with this or is it set in stone, I feel a little harshly done by with it only been 4 days, has anyone else had this situation ? Is there anything else I can do?

    I feel like my only option will be to take all my remaining holiday entitlement... which at Christmas isn't very likely to get granted?

    Just feeling a little stuck :(

  • Guest
    Josh Morris Thursday, 29 June 2017

    Paternity pay

    Hi, I've just returned to work from my two weeks off and my employer has informed me i am not entitled to paternity pay due to me starting the job 10 days too late.

    HR seem to think there is something else available from HMRC in terms of cash support for those not eligible.:( Is there such a thing?

  • Guest
    David Saturday, 08 July 2017

    MAT-B1 Form


    I am in a bit of a strange situation I have actually split up with my unborn babies mother and at first she was refusing to send me the MAT-B1 form and now is saying she is unable to as its been sent away for her own maternity leave and doesn't have a copy. We are on pretty poor terms at the moment I am hoping this changes when she gives birth the issue is I work on an oil rig and my company require this MAT-B1 form in order to allow me to take my leave, in normal circumstances working on land it probably wouldn't be an issue to get away from work when your partner goes into labour but I want to be on leave so I am at home as it can take me a couple of days before a helicopter is available and could end up missing the birth. Does anyone know if there is any way I can get a hold of this form through other channels or been in a similar situation? Any advice would be welcome.


  • Guest
    Hans Friday, 28 July 2017


    Hi I worked in uk for 2 yrs n went to see my kids in sweden every other month for about 10 days. Those days I applied parental leave in sweden but after my final tax declarations for these 2 yrs swedish social security (forsakringskassan) determined that I couldn't have taken this leave from them but instead from uk. In case if I didr take it from uk then they require me to submit proof that I did not take any parental leave benefits from UK. What form/doc wud b helpful in this case???

  • Guest
    Cristian Monday, 21 August 2017


    I am an agency worker(from 2015) and my last employer agency was started on 6 of may 2017 till present. My baby due date is in 14 of September 2017. Can my paternity leave be paid? And what i have to do to claim it?

  • Guest
    Anne Monday, 28 August 2017

    Work contacting the father during paternity leave?


    My partners work have contacted him numerous times during his 2 weeks paternity leave (straight after our baby was born) and to request him to go in and work on one of these days, much to my dismay as this is such a precious time. Is there any rules of regulations against employers doing this and contacting employees during this period?

  • Guest
    Andrew Urwin Sunday, 10 September 2017

    Bit of a tricky question!!!

    Hi guys,

    Bit of a tricky question.

    My wife is due around May, shes going to take around 9 weeks maternity, go to work for 2 weeks then have the summer school holidays at home with the child. (Shes a teacher & going back for 2 weeks will enable her to have full pay).

    What im wondering is how would be best to plan my SPL/holiday.

    We were thinking about the plan above & for myself to take the 2 weeks holidays (while wife has gone back to work), then for me to start the SPL in Sept '18. The only problem is, what legally can I have off during the birth? Because if I take any holidays for the birth I cant take those previously mentioned 2 weeks off and Im wanting to keep my SPL as this can only start once the mother has ended her Maternity.....and I don't think you can take paternity followed by SPL.

    Hope this makes sense!

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