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Paternity leave 101: The rules, the benefits and everything else you need to know

The Bluebell baby monitor can be used from birth

Photo by Lelia Milaya on Reshot

As Mr. Keating once said: life is a roller coaster. So what part of the ride are you on when you create a whole other human life? Probably that peak where you edge slowly up towards the sky, knowing there’s a drop on the other side. You’ve heard all about it from your friends, but you can’t see it and aren’t quite sure what you’re in for. But you’re there, there’s no turning back and although you can feel your heart in your throat, you’ve never been more excited for the plunge.

The mum-to-be is probably on a similar ride, but one with a few extra twists and loops that lasts quite a bit longer. It can be a difficult for dads-to-be if they're unsure how to best support their partners. But there are lots of things that you can do: from just being there to offer support, to attending antenatal appointments and classes, to preparing for your new arrival. And, of course, arranging your paternity leave so that you can support your partner after birth and enjoy the first few days with your little one.

(Don’t forget: partners are also entitled to paid time off for two antenatal appointments of 6.5 hours each).

Why take paternity leave?

You may not need any more reasons to take your paternity leave beyond: getting to spend some time getting to know your beautiful bundle of joy, helping mum as she recovers, bonding as a family, learning about taking care of a baby, etc. etc.

We know that for some, work commitments might mean that it is difficult for you to take paternity leave, but it is something you’re entitled to. Here are some research based benefits that paternity leave can provide:

  • It’s been found to help fathers develop closer emotional relationships with their children.
  • It can lead to partners being more involved in caring for kids as they grow. (This study found that UK dads who take leave are 25% more likely to change their babies nappies, get up and go to them in the night and feed them at 8-12 months).
  • It can keep the romance alive. This is a beautiful time for bonding, and research has found that fathers taking leave can reduce conflict over household chores. It may also make couples less likely to separate (a sad thing to think about but it happens!).
  • It can also help Mum further down the line. It’s been found to help with mum’s wellbeing, specifically at three months postpartum in this study. It may also lead to mothers being more likely to return to the same employer after maternity leave, to take less time off sick and to even get paid more in the future. Go team!

This is just a handful of the benefits, but there are loads more. Just a little bit of time spent with your nearest and dearest really can go a long way!

Both parents can follow the baby monitoring with Bluebell

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

How do I claim?

This is the important part. You need to make sure you claim properly and far enough in advance to get what you’re entitled to. It would be heart breaking to miss out!

  • To take paternity leave, you must be the father or adopter of the child, partner of the mother or intended parent (such as with surrogacy).
  • You must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before your baby’s due date – this is called the notification week.
  • You must also have been working for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of your notification week. Make sure to mark that notification week in your calendar!
  • Your employer may have their own form you need to fill in to claim paternity pay, or you will need to fill in an SC3 form.

How much can I take?

One or two weeks. Not much, right? Better make the most of it! Or you can use Shared Parental Leave to use some of Mum’s maternity leave (look out for our future post on SPL).

  • Your paternity leave has to be taken all in one go and can’t start before your baby’s born.
  • It has to be taken within 56 days of the birth of your baby.
  • You have to give your employer 28 days’ notice if you want to change when you take your paternity leave. So, take a second to think about what would be most beneficial for your family before you discuss it with your boss.

How much will I get paid?

This is the part that can be tricky for some, and may (unfortunately) lead to you missing out on paternity leave if it's not enough. You’re entitled to £148.68 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever one’s lower). Use this calculator to check what you can get.

Some employers are happy to pay you a higher wage (contractual paternity pay) which is great, but they don’t have to do this. There are many people currently fighting for men to get more paternity leave and to get paid more. Hopefully this is something we’ll see in the future!

Get some of your time back with a Bluebell baby monitor

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Ideas for making the most of it

  • Plan it around your annual leave (if you can). This will give you an extended period of time to enjoy getting to know your newborn.
  • Plan ahead. Depending on your job, try to get things wrapped up at work so that you’re not bombarded with emails while you’re away. Also, getting baby bits done before they arrive gives you more time to spend with them (decorate nursery, buy their pram, clothes, baby monitor, etc.).
  • Of course, bond with your little one. You may have never changed a nappy or burped a baby – well now’s your chance! And although you may not get much response when your baby’s at such a young age, you can still cuddle, talk, read and sing to encourage their development. (Or just gaze in awe of their cuteness – we’ve all been there).
  • Let your partner know just how much you love her. She will need to recover from giving birth, which gives you a chance to step up and take care of her for a while. Cook the meals, do the housework, look after other children (if you have them), and just generally take the weight off so she can recover properly.
  • Take this time for some baby proofing. The first year can (unfortunately) flash right past. Your little one will soon be crawling and walking all over the place, and it’s better to be prepared. There are lots of things you can do to prepare your home for when baby starts wriggling around by themselves.
  • Meal prep. We’re not talking about Tupperware filled with post-workout chicken and broccoli. This type of meal prep should still be nutritious but maybe a bit homelier. Prepare meals and freeze them so that your partner has something good to eat when you’re back at work and she’s busy with baby.
  • Other prep. As you may be going back to work soon, you can use this time to make sure mum's as prepared as possible. Make sure she has all the bits she needs and is going to be comfortable when you're not there. For an extra helping hand, you could get a Bluebell Smart monitoring system. This offers a different type of baby monitoring that looks after mum too!
  • Partners can do skin-to-skin bonding too! And it has so many benefits for both you and your baby, including helping with their immune system, soothing them, helping with your psychological wellbeing, etc. Like you needed any more excuses for cuddles!
  • Take some ‘me’ time. If, between all that, you find some free time, why not take some time out? With around 1 in 10 men suffering from postnatal depression, it’s important to take a breath and think about your own wellbeing. So, if Mum and baby are settled down for the evening, think about taking yourself down to the pub/cinema/gym – whatever tickles your fancy!

new dad and newborn doing skin-to-skin contact. Monitor baby's skin temp with Bluebell

Photo by marvelmozhko on Pixabay

As things progress, dads are getting more and more involved in the care of children. In 1961, they only spent 12-15% of the time Mum did looking after babies and toddlers. By 2017 it was almost half (for every hour Mum spends looking after the kids, Dad spends half an hour). 

It’s 2019! A time for change and the perfect time for partners to start breaking down stereotypes of (often outdated) parental roles. Look out for our post on Shared Parental Leave for more on this.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on paternity leave – is it long enough? Was your employer flexible? How did you spend yours?