As people increasingly look to different ways of starting a family, more options are now available for those looking to take time off work to care for their child.
Whether you are in a same-sex couple or are becoming parents through surrogacy agreements or adoption, you will want to know what is available to you. Fathers are also increasingly looking to take paternity leave. It’s important to know where you stand in terms of maternity and paternity.
When you’re pregnant, you are entitled to up to a year of maternity leave, no matter how long you’ve worked for your employer. The earliest that leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, unless the baby is born early.
Statutory maternity leave is made up of Ordinary Maternity Leave for the first 26 weeks, and then Additional Maternity Leave for the last 26. You don’t have to take the full 52 weeks, but you must take two weeks’ leave after your baby is born, and four weeks if you work in a factory.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks, and you will get 90 per cent of your average weekly wage before tax for the first six weeks. For the next 33 weeks, you will get either £172.48 or 90 per cent of your weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.
Paternity leave in the UK is given for either one or two weeks and has to be taken in one go. Leave can’t be taken before the birth.
To be eligible for paternity pay, you must either be the father, the husband or partner of the mother or fellow adopter – which includes same-sex partners – the child’s adopter, or the intended parent if you are having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement. You must also have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 15th week before the baby is due. If you are not eligible for paternity leave and pay your employer must tell you within 28 days if you do not qualify and why. Some companies may offer company paternity pay (paying you in full for two weeks) so you should check company policies or ask your manager or HR about this. You will however be able to take unpaid leave to take the mother of your child to two antenatal appointments, and this also applies if you’re having a baby through a surrogacy agreement.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is where you can trade in your maternity or adoption leave and share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between you.
You and your partner may be able to get SPL if you’re having a baby, using a surrogate to have a baby, adopting a child, or fostering a child you’re planning to adopt.
Pay and leave will need to be shared in the first year after your child is born or placed with your family.
You can use SPL to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work, or take it all in one go. You can also choose to be off work together or to stagger the leave and pay.
To get SPL, you and your partner need to meet the eligibility criteria and give notice to your employers.
You will also need to give up some of your maternity or adoption leave and pay by taking less than the 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave and using the rest as SPL. For example, if you’re the mother and you’ve taken 22 weeks of maternity leave and SMP, you can share the remaining 30 weeks of SPL and 17 weeks of pay with your partner.
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