Law guide: Employment

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Statutory paternity pay

Statutory paternity pay

Statutory paternity pay: births

A person qualifies for statutory paternity pay (SPP) if they have:

  • At least 26 weeks' continuous employment with you up to and including the date of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) - the 'qualifying week'
  • Average weekly earnings (AWE) at or above the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) for National Insurance contributions (NICs) that applies at the end of the qualifying week (see the current LEL here)
  • Provided you with the necessary notice requirements (see Paternity leave: births).

Statutory paternity pay: adoptions

The qualification criteria for statutory paternity pay differ for UK and overseas adoptions.

UK adoptions

A person qualifies for SPP when they are adopting a child from within the UK if they:

  • Have at least 26 weeks' continuous service with you by the Sunday in the week in which the adopter is notified of having been matched with the child. The week begins on a Sunday and ends the following Saturday
  • Have average weekly earnings (AWE) at or above the lower earnings limit (LEL) for National Insurance contributions (NICs) that applies at the end of the matching week (see the current LEL here)
  • Provided you with the necessary notice requirements (see Paternity leave: UK adoptions).

Note that in Northern Ireland, there are some differences in the notice requirements for paternity leave and paternity pay. To claim paternity pay, at least 28 days before the start of their paternity leave, your employee needs to tell you when their leave will start, and give you a written declaration that:

  • They will use the time to care for the child and/or support the child's adopter; and
  • They're either jointly adopting the child, or that they're married to or the partner of the adopter and will have the main responsibility (with the adopter/other joint adopter) for the child.

If it's not reasonably practicable for them to give you the start date and declaration in time, they need to give it to as soon as it is reasonably practicable.

Overseas adoptions

A person qualifies for SPP when they are involved in adopting a child from overseas if they:

  • Meet the criteria and notification requirements to qualify for paternity leave (see Paternity leave: overseas adoptions)
  • They have average weekly earnings (AWE) at or above the lower earnings limit (LEL) for NICs which applies at the point when the adopter receives official notification or they complete 26 weeks' service, whichever is later. See the current LEL here).

Note that in Northern Ireland, the employee must give you a written declaration at least 28 days before the start of their paternity leave, stating that they:

  • satisfy the conditions that entitle them to take paternity leave; and
  • will be taking the time off to support the child's adopter mother and/or care for the child.

Employment status

To qualify for SPP (for births or UK/overseas adoptions), a person also has to be:

  • An employed earner, i.e. an employee or office holder (someone working as a director of a company)
  • Liable to pay secondary Class 1 NICs on their wages or salary

Although this generally applies to employees, an agency worker, for example, may be eligible for SPP even if they are not eligible for paternity leave.

If the employed earner has more than one employer, they may be able to claim SPP from each one.

Failing to qualify for SPP

If an employee does not qualify for SPP (either because they aren't eligible or they don't comply with the notice requirements), you can refuse to pay SPP.

You must give them a completed form SPP1 which is available from HM Revenue and Customs.

If there is a dispute between you and the employee over whether they should be paid SPP, then you can refer it to HM Revenue and Customs to make a formal decision.

The rate and duration of SPP

Up to 2 weeks of SPP is available. It's payable at either the statutory weekly rate (see the current rate here, or 90% of the employee's AWE – whichever is lower.

You can calculate statutory paternity pay on GOV.UK.

The rate (and duration) of SPP remains the same regardless of the number of children resulting from a single pregnancy or adoption (e.g. twins).

You can, if you wish, have enhanced paternity pay arrangements to attract and retain employees.

For example, you could:

  • Pay full pay during the employee's paternity leave. However, you could also change the qualification criteria for this enhancement, e.g. the employee needs a year's continuous service
  • Pay SPP to all employees – regardless of whether they meet the statutory qualification criteria

You can offer these arrangements as a contractual right. If you offer them on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, you must act reasonably and comply with legislation aimed at tackling discrimination. You should be aware the arrangements may become contractual through 'custom and practice'.

Ending SPP payments

You can stop paying SPP if an employee:

  • Dies
  • Works for another employer whom they did not work for during the qualifying week (or adoption matching week)

You do not have to pay SPP to an employee for any week during which they do some work for you.

Recovering SPP payments

You can recover 92% of your SPP payments from the government.

However, if your total annual National Insurance payments are £45,000 or less you can recover 103%.

You can still recover the SPP portion of any enhanced paternity pay from HMRC.

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