“Supporting your partner during the early days of parenting is an opportunity to strengthen your bond and create lasting memories.”

Aidan, Founder of TMFC

The Power of Paternity Leave: Supporting Fathers, Strengthening Families

Let's get the basics right. What is paternity leave and am I eligible to take it?

Here in the UK, you're entitled to 1 or 2 weeks' paid paternity leave. However in order to get access to paid paternity leave you must meet certain criteria. In order to qualify for paternity leave you must:

  • Be an employee

  • Give the correct notice to your employer, and

  • Have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 'qualifying week'

Now the qualifying week is the 15th week before baby is due. So, there are barriers to paid paternity. If you're self-employed there is no access to paid paternity leave and if you've recently moved employer then statutory paternity pay might not be available. Your employer might offer enhanced paternity pay but in most cases that won't kick in until you meet the statutory criteria.

For simplicity 15 weeks before baby is due you must have been continuously employed for more than 6 months to qualify for statutory paternity pay, oh and you must also be employed by your employer on the date baby is born.

Here’s the kicker: Paternity leave, unless it’s enhanced isn’t going to cover your current bills.

The statutory paternity pay is whichever of these is lower

  • £156.66 a week, or

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings

 And for many that's too big a drop!! Right now there is no financial protection or incentive that encourages a dad to take time off to support his new family.

According to the income tax calculator presented by moneysavingexpert.com someone earning £25,000 and paying 5% into a pension will take home approximately £382 a week after tax. Now if you meet the current criteria you'll be exposed to a drop in take home pay. In all honesty, that £226 drop in weekly take home pay isn't exactly getting you both off on the right foot. Frankly speaking it creates unnecessary pressure on dad to forfeit paternity and return to work early to ensure the family is financially stable.

Note your employer can offer an enhanced package and they're not allowed to offer less than the statutory minimum.

Great. I meet the criteria - Where do I sign?

My first advice is to check your paternity/maternity policy and this should be readily available and I recommend doing this:

  • Before telling your manager, and

  • Not long after you find out that you've got a baby on the way

Why not just tell my manager? I think it's important to understand the policy first and it's important to understand the financial package available. By taking a proactive step you and your partner can start to plan ahead and work on a budget that allows you both to understand the financial pressure you're exposed to in the early weeks of parenthood.

Once you understand the policy, the key date you must be aware of is the 'qualifying week' i.e. 15 weeks before baby is due, you have to tell your employer. You need to tell them the following:

  • Baby's due date,

  • The date you want paternity leave to start, for example on the day baby is born or during the week after birth, and

  • Confirm whether it is your intention to take 1 or 2 weeks' leave

Typically your employer will ask you to fill in a form (SC3 or their own version of the SC3). So, 15 weeks before baby arrives you must have confirmed the above to your employer which will be week 25/40. Note that your employer must tell you within 28 days if you do not qualify and why using the form SPP1.

Now you can take either one or two weeks and unfortunately you get the same amount of time off if your partner has twins. You can't split the time off and your leave cannot start before baby arrives and it must end within 56 days of baby's arrival. Just to complicate matters if you wanted to make a change to your paternity leave you need to give your employer 28 days' notice.

What about my employment rights?

Your employment rights are protected while you are on paternity and that includes your right to:

  • Pay rises should one be granted whilst you're on paternity leave

  • Build up holiday, and importantly

  • Return to work.

And what if I want to support mum at antenatal appointments?

You have the right to take unpaid leave to accompany mum to two antenatal appoints if you are:

  • The baby's father

  • The expectant mother's spouse or civil partner

  • In a long term relationship with the expectant mother

  • You are the intended parent (If you're having baby through a surrogacy arrangement)

So no barriers to supporting mum and you can take up to 6 1/2 hours per appointment. Again, I recommend checking your paternity/maternity policy to understand if your employer offers extra time off or paid time to attend appointments.

Now employers can offer enhanced paternity pay. I was personally offered 2 weeks paid paternity leave at my full salary and I also had the opportunity to access shared parental leave. For now I'm not going to go into SPL but I'll be covering in a separate blog soon.

Can I delay my paternity?

Yes, you don't have to take paternity immediately. The statutory expectation is that paternity must end within 56 days of baby's arrival. In my experience my partner needed me and after the birth of Max I needed paternity to start straightaway.

I think with more of us working from home you might choose to delay paternity because you know you'll be around more because of your working arrangements. I tread carefully here and again I'd have an open and honest conversation with your partner about delaying paternity. The obvious blocker to delaying paternity is that you must give your employer 28 days' notice if you intended to change your paternity leave. Now, pause for a moment. If there are complications with the birth of baby and you've chosen to delay paternity you might be forced to take annual leave and not paternity leave if your employer sticks to the rules, so think carefully about choosing to delay.

How do I know if my employer or future employer has a good paternity policy?

If you've recently landed a job then you may have seen details of paternity pay posted on the employers website. In my experience, in the 15 years I've been working I've not asked or ever seen details of a paternity policy before I opted to take on a new role. In ever thought to ask the question and naively at the time I didn't think it was an important part of my overall package. So, I lucked out! I got my enhanced paternity pay and didn't need to think beyond the two weeks. Today, I think I would approach it differently and in a recent article on Business Leader it looks like companies are starting to think about it differently too.

According to Indeed.com 'The number of jobs offering enhanced parental leave - defined as what is offered above the statutory minimum in the UK - has more than doubled' and according to their analysis there has been a rise in job description offering benefits over and above the statutory minimum. This is based on postings that advertise “generous, extended, competitive, enhanced, or market-leading” maternity, paternity, or parental leave. https://www.businessleader.co.uk/jobs-offering-enhanced-parental-leave-double-in-one-year/

There appears on the face of it to be a more inclusive approach to parental leave and that is a much needed headline in a world where inflation, job security and the rising cost of living are very much on the mind of everyone, especially new and expectant parents.

My advice to those planning a family and looking to change job is to make sure you've got all the facts. You are entitled to statutory paternity but only if you qualify and therefore you need to check the small print and consider the impact of changing jobs just before baby arrives. For those looking for an enhanced package be sure to ask your prospective employer what the paternity package is. If you're going through an agent.. Get the facts! An employer with an enhanced paternity package is more likely to have diversity and inclusion at the forefront of its ethos.

Supporting your partner and being on hand to encourage when she needs it most.

Thinking back to the births of my boys we had routine deliveries. My wife hypno-birthed and both arrived without complication or any need to deliver through caesarean, so we were home the following day and she was up and mobile on day one!

The biggest challenge we faced was both boys had tongue tie and for anyone who has experienced tongue tie it can put enormous pressure on mum and the bond she's desperately trying to create with your new baby. So, I was there, I wasn't distracted by work and I was doing my best to encourage her through what was an excruciatingly painful experience. I researched breastfeeding techniques and tried my best to support her. Now for anyone who's witnessed hypno-birthing first hand you know deep down your partner has got the strength and resilience to push through anything. However, paternity allowed me to step in and try to help best I could.

For many mums birth isn't a straightforward experience. Not only is it exhausting but her body will need time to recover. Frankly speaking I believe paternity/maternity rights need to go further to highlight the challenges faced by many. If you're partner had a caesarean her body needs time to heal. If she doesn't have the support network to help her in the early days you'll feel the pressure. If you don't qualify for paternity or your paternity leave isn't topped up by your employer you'll be forced back to work. You're doing the right thing but you'll be conflicted, because you want to be there to support your partner when in reality you can't if money is tight. That can breed resentment and create tension in the relationship and that's why it's important to be upfront with your employer once baby arrives. They might not support you but if you don't ask or make them aware of the situation at home how will you know.

A chance to bond with baby and with mum.

This is a new experience for you all! It's crazy to think that the hospital lets you leave with baby, you get home, close the door and then you're all alone with no experience and in some situations no support.

That first week is full of surprises! By taking paternity leave you can enjoy it…. Yes it's relentless and you're constantly on edge but you feel alive. You created life and have this incredible person who is now entirely reliant on you both to nurture, protect and help he or she survive in this mad world.

She'll need you to help her too. She'll need your encouragement, understanding and importantly she'll need you to listen. Your immediate response to fatherhood can make or break how you will both adjust and she needs to feel your support at a time when her emotions are racing! Your role is to help her adjust in the lead up to you heading back to work.

Beware extended family at this time. Now this is a tricky subject for you to navigate but this is your time to bond with baby so be sure to agree with your partner a schedule for visiting baby. Everyone will want to meet baby but it's important that together you create boundaries. If you don't it will create friction between the two of you. I think you have to be honest with one another before baby arrives, what are her expectations of you? And what support will she want in the early days from her family? You have to go into this with your eyes open and be prepared for overbearing relatives or pushy in-laws. Ultimately you both are adjusting to a new routine and you're also finding your feet, you've just experienced aseismic shift in your relationship and you need to work together to find what works best for you, her and baby.

I know that both boys have benefited from me being around more. Paternity was just the start but choosing to work more flexibly in a post COVID world has benefited us all. As a family unit we're tighter and we share a deeper connection. There will be days when you might want to escape but nurturing a stronger bond between you all has to be your priority and it can start as early as the first few weeks after baby arrives.

A chance to take it all in.

You have just witnessed the mental and physical strength of the female body. She may have brought life into the world but your new arrivals needs you both. Right now, it has no wants only, needs and it will depend on you and your partner for food, warmth, protection, love, patience and compassion.

After a long labour you are both exhausted…. Ok you might have snacked, watched a TV show or binged a boxset or read a book but you'll have been in a heightened state of stress for a prolonged period of time. From now on there will be no let up and no chance to catch your breath and that's why it's important to reflect on the changes you're both going to experience. In the next 12 months you'll accomplish so much and one thing you'll both forget to do is celebrate the roles you're playing individually and collectively.

You have both been waiting for this moment, be sure to enjoy the first few days. You will forced to adapt quickly but don't forget to enjoy the raw beauty that attaches to the journey that is parenthood. My advice, use this time wisely. You won't get it right first time, there will be laughter, tears of frustration and joy, there will be moments when you second guess your instinct but throughout it all there will be memories for you both to cherish. If baby is your first, get out the camera and capture the memories, create a folder on your phone and move the images to a folder titled baby's first day and then get out from behind the camera and be present in the moment.

Now is the time to start thinking about the future.  What!!! But we've only just become parents!

Take it from me, paternity will be over in a flash! Before you know it you'll be scrambling to stay on top of work, your relationship and everything to do with baby.

Your role is to actively listen and try to understand the relentless nature of parenting alone whilst you're out at work. You'll need to be on hand and ready to jump right in from the moment you open the front door! There will be things she might not have managed to get done in the day and leveraging 'I've been at work all day and working my ass off' is not the way to communicate regardless of the pressure you might be feeling! Just because she's a stay at home mum (Right now) doesn't mean she:

  • Has to live up to the higher expectations and be superwoman and super mum!

  • Has to have it all under control! Sometimes the days are just shit!

  • Can't rest up! The mum life is a full time job. She's not been sitting on her ass all day. She'll see you coming through that door and some days she'll feel like dashing past you leaving you to manage the chaos!

  • Deserves to be put under more pressure to get the household chores done! There will be days when she's opted to meet friends and not get all the tasks done. Let it be, she needs community just as much as you do! 

Just remember to be on hand and encourage her from the off. She'll want some independence back and encouraging her to meet friends and socialise will help her stay connected, happy and confident.

For you, there is little support and resources on offer, in most cases you'll be back to work and treated like nothing happened. Ok, it might be that you've got a good relationship with your boss but, where do you turn when you need support in the early days? And, if you needed help would you ask for it?

Most organisations aren't focused on the aftercare of a new parent but if they value you as an employee they should definitely be doing a lot more. Why? Because the engagement of employees and especially new parents breeds loyalty. If you're looking to join a community then sign up to the New Dad Recharge, the only course designed to help you master the early pressures of fatherhood.

Frankly speaking there are gaps in the post maternity care that leave new mothers feeling isolated, demoralised and in a lot of cases completely overlooked. Employers need to do more to protect new mums, help them adapt to balancing motherhood and their career. They need to offer the right support to her as she prepares for her return and importantly they've got to get the post return care right.  

Paternity rights and benefits need to cater more to a dad returning to work

I believe paternity leave and the benefits offered to new dads don't go far enough. In that first year you're faced with key decisions and you have to make them against the back drop of ever reducing sleep and in a lot of cases a complete disregard for your own mental health and general wellbeing. Not only are you trying to balance finances, baby's health, progress and wellbeing but as a couple you're trying to settle into a new routine and one that can change at any time! 

A two week block at a significantly reduced salary can create unnecessary pressure on the new family. I believe we have a responsibility to be better prepared mentally, physically and financially but for some the big decisions in that first year are all under the cloud of an ever depleting pot of cash which breeds resentment, creates friction within the partnership and can cause both parents to question their value and contribution to the family unit.

As a partner you'll need to navigate your partners desire to return to work and the complexities attached to that decision. We're not just talking about the scale of the financial burden attached to childcare, we're talking about preparing to deal with that conversation with sensitivity and empathy. Both are key skills that will help you and her work through the decision but also help protect the relationship in the longer term.

Not only that, if she chooses to return to work you will need to be sensitive to the challenges she's going to face. It doesn't matter how prepared she is, I've seen it first-hand, businesses and managers overlook a returning mum because she's not contributed to the business recently. We all want to add value and contribute but a new mum has to start over! She has to prove herself again and again. It doesn't matter how hard she worked before baby, she'll have to work 10 times harder once she returns just to earn the respect she's worked tirelessly for over the years.


Dads need help adjusting to the seismic shift that accompanies fatherhood. Thrust into it, underprepared and unsupported we lose sight of the impact we can have our children. Paternity leave is a fantastic opportunity for you to start thinking about the type of dad you want to be and is a chance for you to simplify your role and focus on what they really need. In most cases you won't get a touch point from your employer. I returned from paternity in April 2020 and between Max arriving and me heading back to work I'd had a complete breakdown. In uncertain times and reflecting back I could have reached out and explained what had happened but I didn't have that relationship with my manager or employer at the time. Yes I needed help but I was also focused on my recovery and I understood what I needed to do to get back on track. In my PND blog I highlighted a need for both employees and employers to get a better grip of the early pressures of fatherhood. I know I needed help but my employer at the time didn't have anything that focused on supporting new dads. We had enhanced paternity leave but nothing to help educate an expectant father on the delicate balance of managing work and fatherhood.

I'm not telling you to take paternity, my advice is to understand the facts, the financial implications and I urge you to be very clear on the benefits associated with taking it.  Paternity leave, if you qualify is a chance for you to bond with baby and support your partner but it has to be right for you both. If you're in the privileged position to qualify for enhanced paternity leave, grasp it with both hands and don't look back. It's a unique chance to bond as a family and grow together, one that cannot be missed.

To the employers reading this I believe expectant fathers and mothers need more help. They need to be aware of the pressures of modern parenting and as employers you can help spread the message. If you're interested in talking more about how The Modern Fatherhood Club can help you support expectant fathers navigate early fatherhood contact me here.

The Modern Fatherhood Club Workshops - Invest in Your Team's Mental Health and Fatherhood Skills.

Our interactive workshops are available all year round to help your employees thrive as caregivers and partners.

As a business leader, you understand the importance of supporting your employees' mental health and wellbeing. That's why The Modern Fatherhood Club offers a series of virtual workshops designed specifically for working dads. Our workshops provide practical strategies and insights to help your team navigate the challenges of modern fatherhood and prioritise their mental health.

Our workshops can be tailored to meet the needs of your business and are available all year round. Each workshop is led by Aidan, a father of two, who has a unique perspective on fatherhood. The workshops are designed to be interactive and offer the opportunity to connect with other dads within your organisation.

Investing in your team's mental health and fatherhood skills not only benefits them, but it also benefits your business. By offering our workshops, you can demonstrate your commitment to supporting your employees in their personal and professional development.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to invest in your team's mental health and fatherhood skills. Click the button below to learn more and register your interest.

“Paternity leave allows fathers to experience thejoy, challenges, and growth that come with early parenthood”

Aidan, Founder of TMFC


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