After the birth of his son with Carrie Symonds, here’s how much time off the PM is legally allowed
A spokesperson for the couple said: “The Prime Minister and Ms Symonds are thrilled to announce the birth of a healthy baby boy at a London hospital earlier this morning. Both mother and baby are doing very well.
“The PM and Ms Symonds would like to thank the fantastic NHS maternity team.”
The pair first announced that Ms Symonds was pregnant in February. Not long after, Mr Johnson indicated he would take two weeks off when the baby was born “in early summer” – but the coronavirus pandemic has since become much more serious, with the PM himself having only just returned to work following a battle with the virus.
Will he temporarily step down again in order to take paternity leave? Here’s everything you need to know.
How much paternity leave are men entitled to in the UK?
According to the government website, when you take time off because your partner is having a baby, if you are adopting a child or are having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement, you might be eligible for: one or two weeks’ paid paternity leave; paternity pay; shared parental leave and pay.
Those who are eligible can choose to take either one or two weeks off, but all leave must be taken in one go. To qualify, men must be classed as an employee at their place of work, plus have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the “qualifying week” (the 15th week before the baby is due).
Do men get paid on paternity leave?
To be eligible for paternity pay, you must be employed by your employer up to the date of birth; earn at least £120 a week (before tax); and have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the “qualifying week”.
The statutory weekly rate of paternity pay is £151.20, or 90 per cent of an employee’s average weekly earnings – whichever is lower. However, some employers have their own company paternity schemes, which could pay more. They can’t pay less than the statutory amount. Paternity pay is paid the same way as your wages, and tax and National Insurance are deducted.
What about Shared Parental Leave?
Some couples might be eligible for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). Introduced in 2015, it aims to help parents split childcare more equally.
Partners can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between the two of them – the leave must be taken in the first year after the child is born, but can be taken in blocks separated by periods of work, or taken all in one go. Parents can also choose to be off work at the same time or to stagger the leave and pay.
To be eligible, both parents must share responsibility for the child at birth and meet the work and pay criteria. The latter stipulate that both parents must have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date; stay with the same employer while taking SPL; and be classed as “employees” of the company, while each earning at least £120 a week on average.
Do most men take paternity leave?
The answer appears to be no. Despite the government introducing measures such as SPL, only 1 per cent of eligible new parents participated in the scheme in 2017/18.
And according to a 2019 study, less than one in three new fathers take paternity leave. Research suggested that roughly a third (31 per cent) of eligible men used their paternity leave in the previous year.
Using data collected from HMRC through freedom of information requests, law firm EMW Law found that the percentage of men taking paternity leave had fallen for four years in a row, with the percentage standing at 34 per cent in 2014/15.
Will Boris Johnson take paternity leave?
Mr Johnson previously stated he was likely to take the full two weeks’ paternity leave after Ms Symonds had given birth.
Asked during a press conference at 10 Downing Street whether he planned to use his entitlement, Mr Johnson said: “Almost certainly, yes.”
However, much has changed since he made the announcement on 3 March, with the death toll from Covid-19 rising to more than 21,000 in the UK and the entire country being put under lockdown.
Mr Johnson has also only just returned to office as of Monday 27 April after a fortnight off while he recovered from the coronavirus, during which time he was even admitted to the ICU.
Downing Street sources have now confirmed that the new father will take his paternity leave “later in the year, rather than now”. Official rules state that paternity leave of one or two weeks “cannot start before the birth (and) must end within 56 days of the birth”.
Unless the rules are bent, this would mean Mr Johnson completing his break by 23 June. Asked whether the PM would stick to the timing requirements placed on all other new fathers, a Downing Street source said only: “I haven’t looked at the rules.”
When he does take his paternity leave, first secretary of state Dominic Raab would be likely to step up to take on many of the PM’s duties.
Have other Prime Ministers taken paternity leave while in office?
Both David Cameron and Tony Blair had children while in office. Mr Cameron took the full two weeks’ paternity leave, while Mr Blair took a “paternity holiday” where he did less work following the birth of his son Leo in 2000.