By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey
Q: My partner and I are due to have a baby in April this year. I have been with my employer for five years working full time, so what are my rights with regards to paternity leave and paternity pay?
A: If you are a working father, you are entitled to one or two weeks paternity leave when you and your partner have a child. Some other people are also entitled to paternity leave.
To qualify for paternity leave for a birth, you must:
• have had the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth
• be the biological father of the child, or be married to or be the partner of the baby’s mother (this includes same-sex partners, whether or not they are registered civil partners)
• have responsibility for the child’s upbringing and wish to take time off to care for the child or support the mother (this responsibility for the upbringing of the child may be shared with the child’s mother), and
• have given your employer the correct notice to take paternity leave
Most fathers who are entitled to paternity leave will also be entitled to statutory paternity pay for the same days. To qualify, you must also:
• keep working for your employer up to the date of birth
• be earning a weekly average of at least the National Insurance lower earnings limit which is £112 per week.
Statutory Paternity Pay is paid at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay which is 90 per cent of your normal weekly earnings or £139.58 a week, whichever is the lowest.
When you can take paternity leave: If you are taking paternity leave for a birth, the leave can start either on the day the baby is born or on a date that has been agreed in advance with your employer. Your paternity leave cannot start before the baby is born. If you are agreeing a leave date later than the birth of your baby, the leave must be completed within 56 of days of the birth.
You must also give your employer notice that you want to take paternity leave. The notice must be in writing if your employer asks for written notice. You must give notice 15 weeks before the baby is due or, if this is not practical, as soon as possible once you know you want to take leave.
If you are adopting a child, you must give notice no later than seven days after the date you are matched with your child for adoption. If this is not practical you must give notice as soon as possible once you know you want to take paternity leave.
You can change your mind about when you want to take paternity leave, but if you do you should give your employer 28 days notice of the changed date.
Shared parental leave: Since April 2015 if your partner is expecting a baby, or having a child placed with you for adoption, you may be able to share her maternity leave and pay. You may be able to share up to 50 weeks leave and up to 37 weeks pay; the qualifying conditions are complex so for free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland or call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (lunch 1pm-1:30pm). Email advice is available at firstname.lastname@example.org