additional paternity leave UK
Should I take additional paternity leave? What am I entitled to take? One dad tells us why he thinks guys should take more time off.
So you're going to be a Dad? Congratulations! Take it from me, it's probably going to be the single most incredible and life changing event you experience. So now that you've done deed and made a baby, there are some practicalities you need to think about. Many of them are already covered in other articles on DadzClub, but one which needs particular attention is Paternity Leave (PL from herein).
If you are in any kind of employment, you need to look into your PL entitlement. My advice would be to speak to the relevant person within your employer, be that your boss or your HR department. Find out what they offer in terms of PL as many employers offer additional benefits for expectant mothers and fathers.
However, there are bound to be a few cowboys out there who tell you you'll need to take unpaid leave if you want time off. For the majority of employees, that is not the case (note I mention employee - things are different if you are self employed or on a contract). Employers are legally obliged to give you PL, whether they like it or not. There isn't space to go into the ins and outs of your entitlement in this article, so I suggest you pop over to The Direct Gov website for a full breakdown of your entitlement.
So you are entitled to Ordinary PL. This is 2 consecutive weeks of leave which is generally paid via Statutory Paternity Pay, which is £128.73 per week unless your normal weekly pay is less, at which point you will receive your normal weekly pay. Note this is taxable.
You will most likely also be entitled to something called Addtional PL. This is, as the name suggests, in addition to the Ordinary PL and can be anything up to 26 weeks in length, starting 20 weeks after the birth. However, there's a catch. Firstly, your wife/partner has to be entitled to the full maternity leave and they have to essentially give up whatever you wish to take. So to put it simply, look at Additional PL as a maternity leave sharing option.
Don't get me wrong, I think this is much better than the original entitlement. Parents at least now have a choice. However, as good as the offer sounds, I think many men will still struggle.
Why do I say this? Well, the majority of women I know who have become mothers wouldn't have dreamed of going back to work any sooner than the 9 month maternity leave period. There will of course be situations where a mother earns more than the father and it may be the only financially viable option for the father to take paternity leave. In this instance, the new rules will be a godsend. But for that majority of couples, the mother will want to take the 9 months off. Not necessarily because they don't want the father to get some of the leave, but because they have been conditioned to know that they are entitled to 9 months with their child. The notion of sharing the leave is too new a concept to have become a normal consideration when planning to become parents.
So where does this leave the father? In a difficult situation if you ask me. For a start, the father cannot take Addtional PL while the mother is on Maternity Leave. So the family get no extra time as a full family unit. Most fathers I know would also feel guilty asking their partner to go back to work sooner so they could have more time with their child at home. Again, it's just not the norm. At least not yet. Inevitably, at least for the time being, I see Additional PL as being something most men will not take up. I personally could not ask my wife to go back to work sooner, no matter how much I wanted to be off.
So where does this leave us? Back where we started I'm afraid. Dads will continue to take 2 weeks off when their baby arrives and then go back to work. I think this is a huge shame and I will try to explain why. We are slowly beginning to accept that men have emotions too when they become fathers. They aren't just the proud dads of old who smoke a cigar and go for a pint down the pub to celebrate - no, we want to be part of this new wonderful world and I think we are entitled to want that. But we can't just be part of the first 2 weeks then jump back into normality. No, we need more time. It takes a mum weeks or months to adjust, so why should it be any different for us? We get thrust into fatherhood and just as we are finding our feet, we are torn away and thrown back into the workplace. I for one found this very hard to deal with.
When my daughter was born, I had booked 2 weeks off - one paternity and one holiday, namely because we couldn't afford the weeks loss of wages as my firm offered the first weeks paternity topped up to full wage. Nice gesture but still hard to deal with when the second week is a drop of almost £700. As the first week went by, it was clear my wife was very unwell. This equated to me being the sole carer for my new baby and also for my wife. That was exceptionally hard and heart breaking, not knowing who to go to first - my screaming hungry baby or my wife screaming in pain. By the end of the 2 weeks we were not in the best shape. My wife still needed care, so I chose to take another weeks holiday. Thankfully my employer was very helpful and I am very grateful to them for being so understanding. But even at the end of the 3 weeks, I was not ready to go back. We were only just beginning to become a tight knit family.
I was entitled to the Additional PL, however, as I said earlier, I couldn't even consider taking it. My wife told me she'd go back to work early so I could take time off, but I couldn't do it. I wanted to make sure she had as long as possible with our new daughter. Maybe this is a failing on my part, maybe I'm being sexist, I don't know, but I just didn't feel I could take some of her leave.
We need to find a balance that works for everyone. There's bound to be compromise, and it'll take time, but we as dads need more time at home with our new families.
What do you think? Please leave a comment