How to make a positive start to combining fatherhood and career

"Above everything else, remember that being a solicitor is just a job. If your child is in the special care baby unit and your wife’s hooked up to a blood pressure monitor, being fed drugs so she doesn’t lose consciousness, the affairs of your clients suddenly seem a little less life or death. They’ll be there when you get back. First day of school? Take the day off and be there for them." Father, senior solicitor, private practice

“Don’t let gender expectations stop you being the father you want to be. Nothing will do more to improve equality in the workplace than fathers taking an active role.” Father, solicitor, private practice

Before you become a father

1 Consider paternity leave and shared parental leave

Paternity leave and shared parental leave (SPL) exist to help men be active, involved parents from the beginning. The current UK paternity leave legislation allows eligible employees to take one or two weeks off within the 56 days immediately following the birth. An eligible employee:

  • is an employee
  • has worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the fifteenth week prior to the expected week of birth
  • has told his employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is expected the baby's due date, when he wants the leave to start (eg the day of the birth or the week after the birth) and whether he would like one or two weeks

If you have taken time off for adoption appointments, you are not eligible for paternity leave and pay.

Mothers and adopters can choose to reduce their maternity/adoption leave and opt into SPL, passing entitlement to their spouse/civil partner/joint adopter/child's other parent or partner (if living with her/him and the child). SPL may be advantageous if it is a priority for your partner/spouse to return to work and you would prefer for your child to continue to be cared for by one of you instead of another childcare provider.