When I was 8 years old my family took me and my cousin to a water park. My cousin was a few years older than me and slightly (a lot) braver. She immediately dragged me over to the largest, longest, steepest slide in the park. A near vertical, open-air drop. As I sat on the edge waiting to launch myself off, I felt a mixture of excitement and gut-wrenching fear. Since then I’ve not really felt the same cocktail of emotions as I did that day, at least not to the same degree. Until now.
On the 4th December, my wife is due to give birth to our first child and I can feel that same blend of emotions. The excitement, for the amazing journey we’re both about to start together, coupled with an icy fear, for the terrifying journey we’re both about to start together.
In the run-up to “B-Day”, there are a million and one different things we both need to think about and get sorted, one of which is to make a decision about paternity leave. I wanted to use this blog to share some of the information I found during my research, and hopefully help anyone else in a similar position to my own.
What is statutory paternity leave?
Simply put, statutory paternity leave is a legal right you have as a father. It’s a period of paid leave from work offered to new dads when their partner gives birth, when they adopt, or have a child by a surrogate.
You can request up to two weeks of paternity leave which must be taken as a whole break, or two consecutive weeks. You can take it any time from the birth of your child but it must end within 56 days of the birth date (or the due date if your child happens to be born early).
Is everyone eligible?
Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible for paternity leave, there are certain criteria you need to fill. You must be either:
- The child’s biological father;
- The child’s adopter or intended parent (if using a surrogate); or
- The husband or partner of the child’s mother (this includes same-sex relationships)
You must also have been working for your employer for at least 26 continuous weeks by either:
- The end of the 15th week before the due date; or
- The end of the week that you are told you’ve been matched with your child for adoption.
How much is statutory paternity pay?
Statutory paternity pay is given to you by your employer, who will deduct tax and national insurance contributions before paying it to you. You’ll be paid either:
- £145.18 per week; or
- 90% of your average weekly earnings
You must also be earning at least £113 per week before tax and continue to work for your employer until your child is born, or placed with you from the adoption agency.
Of course, some employers offer additional payments or even offer you full pay for the duration of your leave. Speak to your manager or read your company’s paternity leave policy to find out more.
How do I claim paternity leave and pay?
You need to tell your employer that you intend to take paternity leave at least 15 weeks before your child’s due date.
If you’re adopting then you need to tell them:
- 28 days before you want paternity pay to start; and
- Within 7 days of being told by the adoption agency that you’ve been matched with a child.
Why take paternity leave?
There are many reasons for taking paternity leave but we’re not going to cover all of them. Instead, we’re going to look at (what I consider to be) the two most important reasons.
Firstly, your child’s mother has just spent 9 months’ worth of energy creating and then delivering a little human into the world. She’s exhausted and she needs a hand. Even if all you’re doing is housework and making cups of tea, you’re helping to ease the burden.
Secondly, it gives you a greater opportunity to bond with your child. You aren’t an optional extra in your child’s life, you aren’t secondary to your child’s mother. You’re an equal partner and just as important in your child’s life. Paternity leave is a chance to create the bonds that will last for the rest of your lives.