Additional Parental Leave: What, How and Why on Earth am I doing it?!

The only material point I'm aiming to make through keeping this blog (apart from proving to Mum that I haven't been dragging Junior round golf courses the whole time) is that spending time as a Dad on Paternity Leave is a good idea, fun and rewarding. The latter point will take some time, as the proof may only emerge when Junior is grown up as a normal and fully contributing member of society!

So leaving side any comments on the outcomes (i.e. my fun and his well-being), what is additional parental leave, how does it work, and why is it a good idea?

Additional Parental Leave (APL) was introduced in 2011 by the Coalition Government in the UK. The basic idea is to increase the flexibility of maternity leave to allow parents to collectively agree the best way to take care of their child, and give fathers more of an opportunity to be more involved in the early stages of their child's development. I believe it came from the Lib-Dem side if you care about the politics.

APL works quite simply. In the normal way the mother informs her employer when she wants to go back to work (must be at least 20 weeks after birth), and the father informs his employer that he wishes to take APL starting from the date the mother goes back to work. The father can take up to 26 weeks APL I think. I'm only taking 12. HMRC kindly provide a very simple form that allows you to tell your employer this. It doesn't, however, change the financial position – one of us is unpaid for three months. As financially it actually makes little difference which one of us is unpaid we are very lucky.

Why is a much harder question. To me there are three levels on which it is a good idea.

At a really macro-societal level, it could start to readdres the imbalance between men and women in the workplace – while it isn't the only factor, that a majority of women of women take a “career break” to have children is part of the reason why they get paid less and don't rise as high as men.

On top of this the evidence for improved child development when the father takes an active role is also pretty overwhelming, so this should lead to Junior being a much more inquisitive, confident and socially engaged child and adult. Being my offspring means he frankly needs all the help he can get. Don't believe me? Check out all the evidence quoted in this article summarising literally dozens of studies that set out the benefits to a child's development, from social to emotional to cognitive (it also has a lot of studies about absence, which I'm not so much a fan of and can be considered a bit judgemental – I'm just lucky that I get to do more), and read this more journalistic description of the benefits.

I'd reflect already that it is clear that Mum and I have slightly (not very though) different styles when it comes to how we spend our time with Junior – mine appears to involve slightly more risk (a la the Bin Incident) – but this isn't a bad thing. Assuming he survives… This means he is getting to see choice and different approaches already.

And really that's the third, best and most important reason. He's my son. I want to get to know him, and share in his upbringing as much as I can – and am being supported by an amazing woman to do more than most Dad's get the opportunity to – even if they want to. I can't really think of a good reason not to – and there were times in the run up I wondered if it was a good idea.

But a week in, and I'm so glad I've got this opportunity. It's amazing!!



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