There are so many things to decide about taking time off work once your baby’s arrived. How long should you take? And – now there’s the option of Shared Parental Leave – will you decide to split your leave between you?
Before you work out what you’re going to do – it’s a good idea to know your options.
What leave options are there?
Here in the UK there are some fairly generous leave options available for couples who’ve just had a baby:
Maternity leave: All women are entitled to 52 weeks off – and in fact you HAVE to take 2 weeks off (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory).
Paternity leave: Partners are usually allowed 1 or 2 weeks off, but you’ll need to check with individual companies.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL): With SPL a woman can share her leave with her partner, in blocks as they want to, over the first year of their baby’s life.
Shared parental leave – what do parents think of it?
SPL was introduced in the UK in 2015, and we caught up with one couple, Amit and Nikita, who did it. Amit told us he was really looking forward to fatherhood and felt that SPL would be a great opportunity for them. It definitely opened up his eyes to what looking after a baby all day was like, too:
“I think I have a reasonably demanding job, but parenting is definitely harder,” he told us. “I remember thinking after about 6 weeks, “When is the weekend?”, but then realising that with [our daughter] Anoushka (who is great), that she doesn’t have a weekend.
“I remember speaking to some of the other mums at classes, whose husbands just thought they played with the child all day. I can safely say I don’t think that, and I really appreciate everything that my wife does for our family every day.”
Taking time off together without Shared Parental Leave
Amit also told us that his leave was heavily supported by his work, which meant it made it easier for him to take than if they hadn’t been so keen.
But if you and your partner aren’t doing Shared Parental Leave, there are still ways to make sure you get some time off together. Your partner should get 1 or 2 weeks’ paternity leave and if they have an understanding boss they might be able to add some more leave to that.
Laura D told us her husband was getting to take 6 weeks off in all and work were very happy to let him take more if he needed to.
And, of course, if you or your partner are self-employed, it will be up to you to decide what time to take off and what work to turn down.
This can be a tricky decision as it might mean you miss out on money – but the bonus, of course, is more family time.
Whatever you decide, just try and make sure as best you can that it’s the right decision for you and your family.