Will William lead the way for working fathers?

As the nation celebrates news of another royal baby in the making, all eyes will be on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge over the coming months to see exactly what kind of parents they will be, both in the run-up to the birth and afterwards.

For Prince William, the pending birth means it is decision time for him in his chosen career as an RAF pilot. Will he choose to continue his work, which requires him to be away from home for weeks at a time, or will he opt for a more family-friendly career path that will allow him to spend more time at home with his wife and baby?

We are likely to get some hints about what the future might hold as Kate prepares for her first antenatal medical examination and ultrasound scan at 12 weeks and again at 20 weeks. Will William demonstrate his modernity by requesting leave from work to accompany his wife to the hospital? Will he be at her bedside for the birth? And will he join her at antenatal classes to learn about how to prepare for the new arrival?

Statutory paternity leave

It may surprise some to know that William will only be entitled to two weeks of statutory paternity leave, which is normally taken from the point of birth. Further, unless he has managed to accumulate two weeks holiday in the run up to the birth, which would allow him to benefit from full pay during this period, he will have to accept standard terms of just £135-£145 per week. This is a paltry amount for any new mum or dad, not to mention the second in line to the throne.

While they are not obliged to do so, most employers are happy to offer fathers-to-be time off to be with their wife at key moments in the run up to the birth; this flexibility is usually well received and viewed as a reward for loyalty. When it comes to postnatal arrangements, fathers whose partners choose to return to work shortly after giving birth may also be able to take additional paternity leave of up to 26 weeks if the child is more than 20 weeks old.

Flexible working

As Kate is not working in an official capacity, it is unlikely that William would qualify for this additional parental leave. So, if he wants more time at home, he may have to ditch the job in Anglesey and move a little closer to home so he and his wife can benefit from their network of family support. Alternatively, if he is planning to take on some of the childcare responsibilities, it may be possible for him to agree a flexible working arrangement with his employer, allowing him to work part time.

As if having some foresight that the announcement of another royal pregnancy was imminent, the Government announced plans last month to introduce new rights to shared parental leave from 2015, in a move to encourage more women back into the workforce, while allowing partners to take time off to care for the children. Under the new scheme, a new father could take up to one year off for childcare duties, by combining his two-week paternity leave allowance with up to 50 weeks of his wife’s 52-week maternity leave allowance, assuming she is returning to work.

Shared leave

It sounds like a great idea on paper, but it is unlikely that Kate is planning to work after the birth and, in reality, this alternative childcare arrangement is unlikely to suit many couples, particularly those where the father is the main breadwinner. According to a recent survey by Netmums, only 17% of mothers thought their partner would be willing and able to take some shared leave over and above their statutory two weeks’ paternity leave. Despite this, it is unlikely that William and Kate will stick with the more traditional model of parenthood – father at work and mum at home. They will probably want to demonstrate that they are a couple endeavouring to live a relatively normal life, believing in equality and sharing in all aspects of their lives together.

See XpertHR’s reference manual for more information on parental leave.

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