Paternity Leave: A practical and helpful guide to understanding your options and arranging your paternity leave

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Have you ever wondered:

  • How long can I take off on paternity leave?
  • How much will I get paid while I’m on paternity leave?
  • Can my partner and I share the time off to look after our baby?
  • What things should I consider when deciding how long to take off on paternity leave?

Overall, the major considerations when arranging paternity leave relate to understanding how much time you are entitled to have off, how much pay you’re entitled to and decide whether you’d consider taking additional leave (and agreeing this early). This should all be tabled with your employer early to improve your chances of getting a good arrangement.

Paternity leave is usually high on the list of questions for new fathers because you’d almost never need to know about it before having a baby. There are also potentially complicated rules that determine how much time a father can have off depending on whether they take additional leave / share leave with their partner.

How much paternity leave is a father entitled to?

Which Magazine have done a good job of detailing the basic statutory entitlements and requirements for fathers in the UK. The key points to note are:

Time off

  • Employed new fathers are entitled to either one or two weeks’ paternity leave. This is the same for multiple births
  • You must have a contract of employment
  • You must have been working for the same employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week your baby is due
  • Whether you take one or two weeks’ paternity leave, your leave must begin:
    • on the day your baby is born; or
    • a number of days or weeks after the birth; or
    • from a specific date after the first day of the week the baby is due.
  • If you have more than one year’s service, you can also take additional, parental leave to have more time off, though this will be unpaid.
  • You must give your employer written notice around week 25 or 26 of pregnancy.

Pay

  • This varies widely and so it’s important to check what you will personally receive.
  • Some employers offer full pay. Others offer £148.68 per week in tax year 2019/20 – or 90% of your average earnings – whichever is lower.
  • If you’re self-employed you’ll need to plan ahead to have time off. 

Other considerations – shared parental leave

  • Shared parental leave is quite a new thing in the UK.
  • It allows parents to share maternity leave entitlements.
  • There is information online about Shared Parental Leave published by the Government (www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay) and your employer may have their own policy.
  • The Government states that you can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay (Statutory Shared Parental Pay is paid at £148.68 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower for the entire 37 weeks).
  • The 50 weeks can be shared however the two parents like.
  • With Shared Parental Leave you can choose when to take your leave, e.g.  you and your partner can take it in turns to have time off or you can have time off at the same time.

More information on Statutory Paternity Pay and Paternity Allowance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/paternity-pay-leave.

How else will my employer support me?

Always speak to your HR department and determine if your employer has their own  paternity leave policy – while the Government sets out the minimum that you’re entitled to, your employer can offer you more (although not all do) and so it is definitely worth checking!

Even if your employer does not have their own paternity leave policy that offers you anything in addition to statutory benefits, it is still worth exploring how they can support you before and after your baby arrives – for example, can you work from home to spend more time with your partner and baby or change your starting and finishing times when you return to work to make things easier? In short, have a think about what would make a difference for you and explore with your employer how you can make it happen.

If I want to take more time off, can we afford it?

If you want to take longer for paternity leave you need to consider your finances. The good news is the cost of babies, at least in the early years, can be quite predictable and can be budgeted for. Our article on the cost of a baby is here. Other entitlements that might apply if you take a longer period of leave include:

  • Can you accrue your annual leave and days off in lieu for public holidays while on paternity leave?
  • Can you use annual leave to extend your paternity leave and limit the financial impact?
  • Can you work shorter weeks when returning to work after paternity leave by using annual leave to take 1 or 2 days off a week?
  • Can you compress your hours and have a day off in the week?

How can I help get the most from my paternity leave?

Firstly it’s worth saying that the 1 or 2 weeks might fly-by very quickly and not feel like enough time. The common activities during this time will be spent:

  • Supporting your partner
  • Learning about your baby
  • Trying to sleep
  • Going to various appointments with midwives and other health professionals
  • …and so the list goes on….

One constant in all of this is that you cannot ever get this time back – it’s a true one-off. Opting for more flexible working as a father is a powerful choice to be a part of your child’s life and will hopefully be one of the best decisions you make. Our video on YouTube about paternity leave gives our top 3 choices to make for paternity leave. We also extensively cover preparing for Maternity leave. 

Good luck on your journey!

 

 

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