Does Paternity Leave Include Bank Holidays?

In the UK, the law mandates that employers provide their employees with maternity and paternity leave, including statutory paternity leave. 

This article delves into various queries surrounding paternity leave entitlements, enabling you to understand the extent of paternity leave available to your employees and whether paternity leave includes bank holidays or if there’s a provision for a bank holiday during paternity leave.

Paternity leave and bank holidays

It can be confusing to understand what your employee’s holiday allowance is if bank holidays during paternity leave occur at the same time. If a bank holiday occurs during your employee’s paternity leave, this is one of the holiday days already covered by your organisation’s statutory annual leave.

As such, if a bank holiday during paternity leave occurs, then the bank holiday will be given as a day off in lieu.

How much paternity leave can your employees take?

If your employee is eligible for paternity leave entitlements, they can take either one or two weeks of statutory paid paternity leave.

It could be written in their contract that they are entitled to more paternity leave than the legal minimum. This paternity leave is called “enhanced” or “contractual” paternity leave.

The Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, set to take effect on the 8th March and applicable solely to children expected to be born in the week starting the 6th April or later, will enable fathers or partners to split their statutory paternity leave into separate one-week blocks instead of having to use it in a single stretch.

How should an employee tell their employer that they wish to take paternity leave?

If your employee fits the criteria and is eligible for statutory paid paternity leave, they must  inform their employer that they wish to take paternity leave fifteen weeks before the baby is due to be born. 

They must tell their employer that they’re due to have a baby, how much paternity leave they wish to take and the date they wish to start paternity leave. 

If your employee does not give you notice in the required time frame, you should talk to your employee and ask why this is the case. They must not delay any further.

How should an employer respond to their request for paternity leave?

According to existing laws, employees are required to inform their employer of their intention to take leave 15 weeks before the anticipated week of childbirth. 

As of recent updates to regulations, from the 8th of March 2024, the notification period for each period of absence has now been shortened to four weeks. 

To keep everything clear between employee and employer, you should reply in writing to their request. As an employer, you should confirm the dates that they wish to take and if they’re not entitled to statutory paid paternity leave, you must tell them in writing. 

If that is the case, you have twenty-eight days to tell them that they do not qualify. If needs be, you can use this form to explain why they cannot have statutory paternity leave.

When can your employee start their statutory paternity leave?

Your employee can choose when to start their paternity leave. Fathers and partners are now allowed to take leave at any point within the first year, extending beyond the initial eight weeks following the birth or adoption placement.

Alternatively, they can also begin their paternity leave on an agreed date after the baby has been born.

They must take their paternity leave all in one go and within eight weeks of the birth. They cannot start paternity leave before the birth of their child, but they can take some of their annual leave before the birth.

What happens if your employee needs to change the start date of their paternity leave?

Sometimes, your employee will have to change the start date of their paternity leave. If they wish to do this, they must give you twenty-eight days notice. Unless you request it, it doesn’t have to be in writing. 

In certain circumstances, it will not be possible for your employee to give you twenty-eight days notice. This happens in circumstances when the baby arrives later or earlier than expected.

What happens if their baby is born earlier or later than expected?

If your employee’s baby is born later or earlier than expected, the employee should inform you of the new start date for paternity leave. If the baby is born later than expected, then your employee and you could agree that they take another kind of leave, such as holiday leave, if they wish. 

In both cases, be aware that there may be some difficult circumstances that come up related to the birth. If so, allow for someone other than the employee to tell you, such as a close friend or a family member.

What happens if there is a stillbirth or death soon after birth?

In these kinds of circumstances it can be difficult for your employee to go directly to you to inform you of the news. You should allow someone close to them to tell you. You should offer support to your employee, and when they’re ready you can discuss what time off they think they need.

Paternity rights will still apply if their baby is either stillborn after twenty-four weeks of pregnancy or dies soon after birth. 

If your employee is eligible for parental bereavement leave and pay, they have the right to start this after their paternity leave finishes. 

If you need to discuss work-related matters with your employee during this time, it may be better to contact a close friend or relative instead. If so, arrange with this person when the communication happens and how it happens – for example, whether any urgent work updates can be emailed to a friend or family member.

What happens if there’s a miscarriage?

A miscarriage refers to a pregnancy loss that occurs in the first 24 weeks. Unlike a stillbirth or a death, an employee is not entitled to any parental leave.

However, for many people a miscarriage is considered to be a bereavement. As an employer, you should consider offering your employee time off and support during a time which is both physically and emotionally difficult. 

You could have a policy which states that employees can take off a period of time specifically due to pregnancy loss. 

Miscarriages can be very upsetting. Therefore, you should treat any of your employees who have gone through a miscarriage with care and support and you should acknowledge their loss too. You should offer the same level of support as you would do to an employee who has been recently bereaved.

How can businesses manage parental leave?

Businesses can easily manage parental leave using our payroll software products. We would recommend using HR software so that parental and annual leave can be easily monitored and changed if there is a change in circumstances.

Do you accrue bank holidays on maternity leave?

Yes, while on maternity leave, you continue to accrue bank holidays as well as your usual annual leave entitlement. 

This means if bank holidays fall during your maternity leave, you’re entitled to take this time off at a later date, adding it to your annual leave balance. 

This rule ensures that you don’t miss out on these entitlements just because you’re on maternity leave, supporting your right to the same holiday benefits as if you were working during this period.