Paternity pay? It won't cover the mortgage

24th February 2006 at 00:00
I am 34 weeks pregnant. Only six weeks left to go before we have our first baby. I keep telling myself to relax and not to get too anxious about the birth. But by Easter I might well have a brand new person to look after - if the baby arrives on time. I hope that it does. If it is late, it will be the end of the Easter holiday and my husband will be going back to work. He is a teacher.

Rights to paternity leave and pay were introduced in April 2003. Eligible fathers can choose to take one or two consecutive weeks of paid leave up to eight weeks following the birth of a child. The Department of Trade and Industry forecast that, in the first year, 80 per cent of 400,000 eligible workers would take up this right. But figures for the year to April 2004 suggest that only 79,000 new dads used their entitlement.

My husband will be among the majority who do not. Not because he doesn't want to, but because if he did we would not be able to pay the mortgage.

Statutory paternity pay stands at pound;106 per week. When a new baby has just arrived, few families can afford for fathers to lose pay. Many new fathers work around this by taking annual leave instead, but it's not an option open to teachers.

Surprisingly, this doesn't appear to be an issue for the teaching unions.

Other public sector workers not only have the option to take annual leave when a child is born, but seem to have better contractual conditions allowing new fathers to spend some time at home with their partners and new babies.

A friend is due to have a baby three weeks before me. She anticipates her partner being at home for four weeks after the birth. He is a paramedic and will get two weeks' paternity leave paid at 90 per cent of his salary. He will then take some annual leave. Similarly, the police get one week paternity leave on full pay, and can tag on annual leave if they wish.

Meanwhile, teachers have only the option of planning their family around the school holidays! Fingers crossed our baby will arrive near to its due date. Otherwise daddy will be spending the first six weeks with other people's children.

Lucy Russell Lucy Russell is a lecturer in education at Goldsmiths College, University of London

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