Boris Johnson set to take paternity leave by end of June
Downing Street says he will take time off 'later in year' but rules say it must be within 56 days
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 for the prime minister, this would mean Mr Johnson completing his break by 23 June, following the birth this morning of his first child with partner Carrie Symonds. Asked whether the PM would comply with the timing requirements placed on all other new fathers, a Downing Street source said only: "I haven't looked at the rules."
Although the current lockdown is widely expected to be relaxed by then, health experts have repeatedly said they believe coronavirus will continue to be present in the UK long beyond this date, with the risk of a second surge in cases following the end of strict social distancing rules.
Mr Johnson indicated in February, when news broke of Ms Symonds' pregnancy and the couple's plans to marry, that he intended to take paternity leave. Following the birth a No 10 source told reporters: “I don’t have any exact timings but I do expect the prime minister to take a short period of paternity leave later in the year, rather than now.”
Downing Street said Mr Johnson was present throughout the birth at an NHS hospital in London this morning, returning to Number 10 by 1.30pm. A source said that the PM had observed the normal rules set by the hospital on spouses attending the labour room during the coronavirus outbreak.
But sources refused to reveal whether the birth was premature, having previously said that Ms Symonds was expecting her first child in the “early summer”.
Number 10 had declined to confirm over the past 48 hours whether Mr Johnson would take part in prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, sparking speculation that the expected date of the birth had been known for at least a couple of days.
But Downing Street would not say whether the baby boy was born by a planned Caesarean section, or whether the apparently early birth was due to a medical emergency.
In response to repeated questioning from reporters, a source refused to discuss the baby’s due date, the location of the hospital, the time of birth, the baby’s name or birthweight, whether Ms Symonds was back home or whether the couple will employ a nanny.
And he refused to say whether the child was tested for coronavirus, after Mr Johnson needed hospital treatment and Ms Symonds suffered symptoms of the disease.
The source confirmed that Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds will continue to live in the flat above 11 Downing Street and will keep their dog Dilyn.
But he said: "I'm not going to get into a discussion about the pregnancy or the birth.
Announcing the birth this morning, a spokesperson for the couple said both the mother and baby are “doing very well”, and that the couple would like to thank the “fantastic” NHS maternity team.
The news came just days after Mr Johnson returned to No 10 to resume his responsibilities – three weeks on from being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital where he was briefly in intensive care suffering from coronavirus.
The announcement was greeted with good wishes from across the political spectrum, with Labour leader Keir Starmer posting on his official Twitter account: “Wonderful news. Many congratulations to Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds.”
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, described it as a “moment of unalloyed joy” while the chancellor Rishi Sunak congratulated the couple, adding: “Great to hear Downing Street is getting a new resident.”
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: “Congratulations and prayers for Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds as they welcome their son into the world. Wishing them every blessing and happiness."
Dominic Raab, the first secretary of state and foreign secretary, who had been deputising for the PM as he recovered from Covid-19, will stand in for Mr Johnson at prime minister’s questions later today.
On Monday, the prime minister delivered an address to the nation – his first public appearance since leaving hospital – claiming there were signs the country was “turning the tide” against coronavirus.
But he warned it was too early to relax the lockdown, suggesting the country was now facing the “moment of maximum risk”, and said the government was aiming to avoid a “second major outbreak” of coronavirus and more loss of life.
Speaking outside No 10, Mr Johnson described the virus that has claimed more than 20,000 lives in UK hospitals as “an unexpected and invisible mugger” and said that now was the moment “we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor”.