Royal baby: Is Prince Harry entitled to take paternity leave? Everything you need to know

Sarah Young
Wednesday 10 April 2019 11:00 BST
MP Bim Afolami to become first father in British parliamentary history to vote by proxy while on paternity leave

With just weeks to go until Duchess of Sussex is expected to give birth, the royal family are preparing to welcome a new baby to their household.

But, while eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that Meghan Markle has taken a back seat from official duties ahead of her April due date, Prince Harry’s paternity leave plans remain a mystery.

Should the Duke of Sussex decide to take some time off after the birth of his first child, he wouldn’t be the first royal to do so.

In 2013, Prince William took two weeks paternity leave following the birth of Prince George, and again after the arrival of Princess Charlotte in 2015.

However, when Prince Louis was born in April last year, the Duke of Cambridge returned to work just two days later.

This comes after a recent study found that an increasing number of fathers crave further access to paternity leave.

However, the report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo – an organisation that promotes gender equality – found that despite this 38 per cent of men do not take time off in the early weeks and months after the birth of their child.

This, the report said, was largely because of negative perceptions in the workplace, with more than one in five fathers (22 per cent) stating that they were afraid of losing their job if they took the full amount of paternity leave offered.

Here we take a look everything you need to know about paternity leave, from who is entitled to how long you’re allowed to take.

What is paternity leave?

Paternity leave is when you take time off work because your partner is having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through surrogacy arrangement.

You can choose to take either one or two weeks and you get the same amount of leave if your partner has a multiple birth, such as twins, the UK government states.

What is the difference between paternity and shared parental leave?

While mothers can take 52 weeks maternity leave and partners are permitted to take two weeks paternity leave, these aren't the only options for expectant parents.

In 2011, new provisions were introduced that allow parents to share childcare more equally during the first year of the child's life.

Known as "shared parental leave" (SPL), the new rules mean that parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay. They can also choose to take the leave in blocks separated by periods of work, or take it all in one go.

Parents can also choose to be off work together or to stagger the leave and pay.

The government states that you need to share the pay and leave in the first year after your child is born or placed with your family.

To be eligible for SPL one or both parents must be entitled to:

  • maternity/adoption leave
  • to statutory maternity/adoption pay
  • maternity allowance (if not eligible for maternity/adoption leave)
  • have curtailed, or given notice to reduce, their maternity/adoption leave, pay or allowance.

A parent who intends to take SPL must also be an employee, share the primary responsibility for the child with the other parent at the time of the birth or placement for adoption and have properly notified their employer of their entitlement.

When can you take paternity leave?

You are required to take your paternity leave in one go and your time off cannot start before the birth. It must also end within 56 days of the arrival of your child.

The government states that you must give your employer 28 days’ notice if you want to change your start date.

You do not have to give a precise date when you want to take leave and can instead give a general time, such as the day of the birth or one week after the birth.

Who can take paternity leave?

To be eligible for paternity leave you must be taking the time off to look after the child and be one of the following:

  • the father
  • the husband or partner of the mother (or adopter) - this includes same-sex partners
  • the child’s adopter
  • the intended parent (if you’re having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement)

You must also be an employee, give the correct notice and have been employed by your current employer for at least 26 weeks.

To qualify for paternity pay, you must also be employed by your current employer up to the date of the birth and earn at least £116 a week before tax.

Can paternity leave be used for antenatal appointments?

You are allowed to take unpaid leave to accompany a pregnant partner to two antenatal appointments if you are:

  • the baby’s father
  • the expectant mother’s spouse or civil partner
  • in a long-term relationship with the expectant mother
  • the intended parent (if you’re having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement)

You can take up to six and a half hours per appointment but your employer can choose to give you longer.

How much do you get paid?

According to the government, the statutory weekly rate of paternity pay is £145.18, or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings – whichever is lower.

Any money you get is paid in the same way as your wages, for example monthly or weekly. Tax and national insurance will also be deducted.

Can you take paternity leave if you are adopting?

According to the government, you must have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks by the “matching week” to qualify for paternity leave.

For adoption this is either the end of the week you’re matched with the child (UK adoptions) or the date the child enters the UK or when you want your pay to start (overseas adoptions)

Your period of paternity leave can start on the date of placement, an agreed number of days after the date of placement, on the date the child arrives in the UK or an agreed number of days after this (overseas adoptions only) or the day the child’s born or the day after if you’re working that day (surrogate parents).

Leave must be taken within 56 days of the date of placement or the child’s arrival in the UK.

You must give your employer proof of adoption to qualify for Paternity Pay. Proof is not needed for Paternity Leave unless your employer asks for it.

Proof can be a letter from your adoption agency or the matching certificate.

Can you take paternity leave if you are using a surrogate?

To be eligible for paternity pay and leave if you use a surrogate to have a baby, you must be in a couple, be responsible for the child (with your partner) and have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the ‘qualifying week’ (the 15th week before the baby is due).

At least 15 weeks before the due date, tell your employer when the baby is due and when you want to start your leave - they may ask for this in writing.

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