The lowdown on paternity leave
Don’t feel guilty if your first thought on hearing that your partner is expecting a child is one of economy: “How are we going to pay for this?” – it’s perfectly natural, reasonable and, in fact, responsible to worry about how the impending arrival will impact upon your financial situation.
Week 9 may be early on in the pregnancy, with your child still technically an embryo, but it is a good time to begin thinking about how you might plan for the period immediately following the expected birth as well as, to some degree, the months and years following this. One salutary piece of advice: however much you might be stressing out about the financial implications of fatherhood try not to sound like the chancellor of the exchequer when talking money and baby; there are many emotions involved here and, in your partner’s case, hormones as well, so tread carefully.
Another entirely valid financial concern you might have is “what about work?”. Again this is as reasonable as it is responsible – life must go on – but you will also want to consider whether you wish to make the most of your statutory right to Paternity Leave and you will of course not want to miss the opportunity for pre-parenthood bonding with your partner and learning about the developing baby that comes with antenatal appointments.
Paternity Leave and your rights
If you have an employment contract with your employer and will have been in the same job for 26 weeks at the time of 15 weeks before your baby’s due date then you are entitled to take some Paternity Leave. This may be for one or two week’s duration and it is up to you to decide whether you wish to take the longer entitlement.
However, you must be sure to tell your employer that you intend to take Paternity Leave no later than 15 weeks before the baby is due. According to GOV.UK you are obliged to provide your employer with details of the following:
- The baby’s due date
- When you want your Paternity Leave to begin (this can be general rather than specific
- 28 days’ notice if you wish to change your start date
- Whether you want 1 or 2 weeks’ leave
Remember, although you have a legal right to Paternity Leave, your employer also has a legal right to request that you inform them in writing; you may wish to also use this as an opportunity to make a request for paternity pay.
Employers are legally required to pay Statutory Paternity Pay of at least £139.58 per week (from 2 April 2017, the rate will be £140.98). Alternatively, if you are usually earn less than this they may pay you 90% of your average earnings.
Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent scheme for self-employed dads so if you are self-employed you will have to try to make your own arrangements.
Shared Parental Leave?
Shared parental leave enables parents greater freedom and flexibility in the way they work and share the main caring role following the birth of a baby.
You are eligible if you meet the following criteria:
- You share responsibility for the baby
- You will have been in the same job for 26 weeks at 15 weeks before your baby’s due date
- You remain with the same employer for the duration of the shared parental leave
- Your partner is eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance or Statutory Adoption Pay and you are eligible for Statutory Paternity Pay
You have a right to take unpaid leave to accompany your partner to two antenatal appointments. If you are in full-time employment you can apply for this leave immediately, but if you are an agency worker, to be eligible you will need to have been performing the same job for 12 weeks.
One way to help ease your money worries is to begin budgeting long in advance of the baby’s likely arrival.
For a while after the birth it is probable that you may have to live on less money than you are accustomed to, but at the same time be accruing considerably more expenses – particularly if you decide to take the reduced income that comes with Paternity Leave. However, there are ways to reduce your outgoings. By being proactive in making savings you can help lessen your anxieties while at the same time inspiring confidence in your partner. Any of the following actions may help:
- Buying in bulk to save money on your food and toiletries shops
- Cooking at home to save money on restaurant and takeaway bills
- Considering cost-effective child care arrangements – e.g. swap deals with neighbours or perhaps help from yours or your partner’s parents
- Getting involved in your community, it is a great source of help, hand-me-downs and freebies
Whatever your worries, people adjust when a baby comes along and although the arrival may mean a raft of changes, in most cases people find ways of coping and getting by. Luckily, if you’re thinking about money now – you’re already ahead of the game. Well done, you!