How long is paternity leave in the UK? (And why you should offer more)
As a business owner, it’s ultimately within your best interests to support your employees who are new parents, so they can bring their best to work in the long run. If anything, it serves you best to go above and beyond what’s merely required of you as per UK employment law.
I’ve helped heaps of small businesses create their own internal policies, and I’ve had a hand in contributing to the Charlie parental leave policy myself. The parental leave policy at Charlie goes beyond the bare minimum, and it was made that way for a reason.
I’d like to offer some guidance on paternity leave in the UK, from your legal responsibilities as an employer to some best practices to follow — so you can build the best paternity leave policy for your small business.
What is statutory paternity leave?
Statutory paternity leave is a legal entitlement for eligible employees in the UK.
In the UK, employees may take one or two weeks off of work to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. This allows them to fulfil their responsibilities as a parent during a pivotal point in their child’s development, without fear of it impacting their career.
Statutory paternity leave eligibility criteria
Not everyone qualifies for statutory paternity leave. Some criteria must be met first.
To be eligible for statutory paternity leave, the employee must:
- Have a relationship with the child. They must be the biological father, the mother’s husband or partner, or the child’s adoptive parent
- They must be employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, or the end of the week in which they are notified they are matched with a child for adoption
Statutory paternity pay
Assuming an employee qualifies for paternity leave, they are entitled to £172.48 a week, or 90% of their average weekly pay, whichever is lower.
I feel I should point out that this is the bare minimum you’re legally required to give. You may offer more generous terms at your own company. In fact, I advise you to do so as a strategic business decision.
Why statutory paternity leave is not enough
You and I are blessed to live in a country that offers programs like statutory paternity leave in the first place. While it’s better than nothing, however, it’s not quite enough.
One or two weeks is not enough time for a new parent to adequately bond with their child, and support the mother during her time adjusting to parenthood. Those two weeks go by quickly as a wink, and that limited time can put heaps of emotional and physical strain on a new family.
The available science shows us that the early involvement of both parents in a child’s life contributes to stronger mental health for the mother, and healthier parent-child relationships.
The precedent formed at this early stage of bonding can have far-reaching impacts on a child’s life. The quality of an early parent-child relationship can help their cognitive, neurobiological, and physical health outcomes that can impact their success as adults.
Business benefits of enhanced paternity leave
Offering a more generous statutory paternity leave package isn’t just the right thing to do, but it can have a positive effect on how your business performs as well.
Here are just a few worthwhile benefits I can think of for adding a little extra to your UK statutory paternity leave policy.
1. Positive impact on employee morale and retention
Offering an enhanced paternity leave benefit can help employee satisfaction and engagement. Take care of your expecting parents during an important life event, and they’ll stay loyal to you.
2. Positive mental wellbeing for fathers
Extend your paternity leave period a little longer, and let the fathers at your organisation have extra quality time with their newborns. If they don’t have to stress about returning to work immediately, it’ll help with their mental health in the long run, so they’ll stay engaged when they’re ready to come back.
3. Gender equality in the workplace
If you offer a robust paternity leave policy at your company, you send a loud and clear message that gender equality is important at your organisation.
Enhanced parental leave challenges commonly-held gender norms about the responsibility of child-rearing between men and women. That can be a good way to attract new talent, especially if they’re planning on starting a family while working for you.
How do we approach paternity leave at Charlie?
The approach to paternity leave at Charlie is designed to be as progressive as possible for a small business.
The policy we have provides equal benefits to both parents: we don’t distinguish between maternity and paternity leave, but offer both sides the same benefits (and call it parental leave).
Our parental pay structure
The pay structure for parental leave at Charlie is designed to offer parents the support they need as they adjust to parenthood.
Charlie offers 10 weeks of fully paid leave, followed by 10 weeks of paid leave at 50% of the employee’s full salary. After that, there are eight weeks of parental leave at 25%, then 11 weeks at the statutory paternity leave pay rate.
On top of that, Charlie takes it one step further by offering allowances for special cases.
For example, if you have a legally defined disability or you’re going to be raising a child with a legally defined disability, then Charlie offers an optional extra 4 weeks at 50% pay. That helps give support to parents navigating these challenges.
Another option: shared parental leave
Rather than offering support to just one parent, you can consider implementing shared parental leave as an alternative option.
Shared parental leave allows mothers to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay with their partner. That might be an enticing option for fathers who want to take more time off to be there for their baby’s first steps or their first words.
If you’re curious, we covered shared parental leave in-depth in our blog.
Crafting your own paternity leave policy
So much for that. How do you go about creating your own paternity leave policy at your company, though?
I’d like to offer some guidance and best practices for offering paternity leave pay in the UK there, as well.
Start with legal minimums
For starters, just begin with the legal minimums for paternity leave in the UK, which I’ve already covered. That helps you make sure you’re compliant and provides a foundation on which you can build.
Benchmark against similar companies
Connect with other HR leaders in your industry, and ask them to share how they manage paternity leave.
Remember, generous, forward-thinking policies can help you attract the best talent, so it’s important to know what similar companies offer to potential employees — it will help you stay competitive in the job market.
Consult with team members
Talk to your employees about what they expect from a paternity leave policy. Consider making employee feedback surveys to get their input, and implementing the best suggestions. That will help you make a policy that suits your team’s specific needs. It’ll also help your employee satisfaction and morale when your team members know they’ve been heard.
I also advise you to have a look at Charlie's parental leave policy so you can see what’s worked for us so far.
How to easily manage paternity leave with Charlie
The Charlie platform can be a huge asset to you as you’re managing paternity leave at your organisation.
- Easy access to company policies: One of Charlie’s defining features is the ability to store all your company HR policies in one centralised place. You and your team can easily access them at any time, so everyone can be on the same page with what the rules are
- Time-off tracking: Charlie also comes with a time-off tracking feature that allows both you and your team members to keep tabs on their allotted time off for parental leave
- HR Advice service: If you’re not sure how to tailor your policy or even where to start, you can get expert HR guidance from an HR advisor at Charlie. I or another HR expert at Charlie can help you make a customised parental leave policy that’s compassionate, compliant, and comprehensive
Offer more than the minimum parental leave with Charlie’s HR Advice
Statutory paternity leave in the UK offers a place to start, but it falls short of providing for the needs of new fathers and their families.
If you’re a small business owner who wants to give the fathers at your organisation the best, then you should give real thought to going above and beyond the statutory requirements.
Get expert advice from a qualified HR consultant on how to craft a generous yet realistic paternity leave policy for your business.