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Paternity leave in the Military

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

I was recently quizzed by my wife regarding a conversation that had erupted into a match between a mother trying to find information on the popular app "Peanut" and some mothers trying to impress what they "know" and why the last person to "know" the answer was wrong. The app sells itself as "A safe space for women to meet and find support", which to it's credit it seems to do very well.

It have also seen it described as "Like Tinder but for Mums", the ability to match and chat with other mums that have similar interests is great. You can dive into general chat, but there a also various groups for mums on the app that you can subscribe to, and discuss topics more closely related you personally.

Being a military family which brings about its own complications throughout the child rearing process, my wife decided to engage with a military specific network. Here is where the need for this service was made abundantly clear.

I was posed a question regarding paternity leave and the specific nuances around caesarean section. Needless to say, the chat group my wife was in sprouted up all sorts of misunderstandings and ideas of entitlement that simply were not true. It also highlighted one major problem which is ingrained in military life for the serving partner that we will discuss later. The serving partner feeling like he / she cannot ask for help, and the stigma attached to the "welfare case".

Having just been put through a rather unpleasant process of applying for Shared Parental Leave (Also coming in another blog very soon), an entitlement that is available and backed by the government, I have learned an awful lot about JSP 760, which is the doctrine relating to all types of leave for military personnel.

Some although not all of the elements of the chat were well meaning. Some were less so. What was more of an issue was that all were incorrect.

"My husband had 6 weeks off".

"My husband has been told he is only allowed 2 weeks"

The conversation was littered with short sharp comments with no substance behind them and turned catty very quickly.

I said to my wife that we should respond with the facts and jumped onto the Gov.Uk website to read and understand the JSP (Joint Service Publication) relating to this and answer with facts. This was it would clear everything up to the participants of the chat group. To my surprise I was wrong. This simply lead to serve my wife up as a target for non believers and smart phone warriors to tell her why she was wrong.

The short version of this is that as a new parent (male) the father is entitled to 2 weeks paternity. This is the only "Entitlement" if you have opted not to apply for Shared Parental Leave". If there are complications surrounding the birth the father can also apply for compassionate leave. This is usually 2 weeks but can be longer or shorter, and is at the discretion of the unit. In extreme circumstances paternity leave can be differed. This can only be actioned by an OF-4 rank or higher, and they will virtually have to declare war on the world to get that signed off.

So that's the correct information! There is more to it but this is the simplified version.

It is so important for mothers and fathers in military families to have access to good information. I was a little appalled by the number of people willing to state that their version of truth was right, and the others wrong, when clearly no-one in the chat had looked in to this is any way. Imaging sending your husband to work with your version of truth only to find that he has now been "debriefed" (being told off), for demanding things he is not allowed. this is going to have an impact of the lives for both parents and added frustrations in a relationship which which is already loaded with the stresses of military life.

I implore you to please be careful and to only seek information from valid sources. Mrs Captains Wife, is not the right source. Neither is Sgt Smith's sister. Similarly, unless you have done the research from the valid sources do not fill heads with incorrect information, you risk making things worse.

The most helpful thing you can do is have your partner or yourself speak to the welfare department within your unit, this will ensure some level of legitimacy. For those of you that can understand military doctrine, consult the correct JSP, as even the welfare departments have been known to get things confused.

We at MFAS will also do everything we can to bring you the correct and up to date information. Although my wife was also told that she was quoting out of date information from one well meaning mum, who I will point out was again completely incorrect. This made me chuckle.

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