How to take time off with your baby

If you’re an expectant father, or the partner of a pregnant woman, you’re entitled to time off work to help you prepare for becoming a dad, and get involved in the all-important first year of your baby’s life.

How to take time off with your baby

Antenatal Appointments

Before the baby arrives, you have the right to time off to attend two antenatal appointments. Your employer doesn’t have to pay for this time (up to 6.5 hours per appointment), although many will do so. But if you’re a permanent employee, your employer must allow you to take it, either as annual or unpaid leave.

Statutory Paternity Leave & Pay

If you have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks, by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (known as the ‘qualifying week’), you will also have the right to Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay. This includes those who are adopting a child. To qualify you must:

  • Have or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
  • Be the biological father of the child or are the mother’s husband, civil partner or partner (including same sex relationships). You don’t have to be married to qualify.
  • A quick and easy way to know if you are eligible for leave and pay is to use the Government Calculator

Tell your employer as soon as possible that you want to take paternity leave, no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. You need to say:

  • When the baby is expected to be born.
  • If you’re going to take one or two weeks off.
  • And, when you want your paternity leave to start.

Shared Parental Leave

On top of Paternity Leave and Pay, you may, if both you and your child’s mum meet the criteria, be eligible to take up to 50 weeks’ Shared Parental Leave. How this works is that mothers can, if they wish, opt out of Maternity Leave from two weeks after the birth, and transfer all or part of the rest of their entitlement to you. It’s possible, if employers agree, to take SPL in up to three blocks each. You can take it turns to be off work, or both of you can be at home at the same time.

How you choose to split the time is up to you - you could decide to share more time together with the baby in the period straight after the birth, for example; you could share the leave between you through the year; or mum could return to work earlier than is usual, and you take the bulk of the year. Whatever your plan, it’s vital to follow the correct application process and deadlines. And remember that your employer can refuse applications to take SPL in blocks; they may insist that the leave is taken in a single, continuous block.

For more information, check out the Government website or the ACAS website 

Flexible Working

A growing number of dads are making the decision to work flexibly once their children arrive – allowing them to play more of a role as a hands-on parent, as well as providing financially for the family. There are lots of types of flexible working, including part-time, compressed hours, term-time-only working and home-based working. You now have a legal right to request flexible working from your employer – they don’t have to agree to it, but they do have to take your request seriously.

In addition to the Government website, the charity Working Families provides some excellent information and advice on employment rights for parents and carers as well as providing a free helpline.

David's Story - A dad's experience of seeking a Family-Friendly Workplace

Determined to be a hands-on dad right from the start, David Early found himself in an unexpected battle with his employer after requesting leave around his daughter’s birth.

In a frank and often moving interview, this Scottish dad challenges gender stereotypes around men's role in the home, harking back to being a child-carer of his mum.

Now using flexible working to share the care equally, David and his wife Emma are demonstrating the win-win that benefits children, families and society at large.