Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who welcomed a son Monday, are now new parents facing the same question many new parents face: How much maternity leave and paternity leave will they take?
Both Meghan and Harry, as members of Britain’s royal family, are in the fortunate position of being able to take time off from official duties after childbirth.
They are also in roles – being royalty – that do not come with established maternity and paternity guidelines. With no guidelines, it is up to Meghan and Harry to decide the amount of leave they take.
“The palace doesn’t usually label their time as ‘maternity leave’ or ‘paternity leave’ because they acknowledge that royals are not employed in quite the same way as the rest of us,” said Victoria Murphy, an ABC News royal contributor. “But there is an acceptance from the public that they will take some time to focus on their family after the birth.”
Meghan’s decision on when to return to official royal duties will depend, of course, on how she recovers after giving birth. She delivered her son past her due date early Monday morning. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces at birth, according to Buckingham Palace.
The palace has not released any details of the delivery nor disclosed where Meghan gave birth. She is expected to appear in public later this week when she and Harry pose for photographers with their newborn.
Both Harry and Meghan would also be expected to make a decision about their time off based on how they are adjusting as first-time parents.
Meghan spent the nine months of her pregnancy busily making inroads as the Duchess of Sussex, announcing her first four patronages, traveling on an official tour Down Under with Harry and even visiting Morocco in the final weeks of her pregnancy.
It could be that she wants to quickly jump back in the public eye to continue that work, or stay out of the public eye for longer while still working behind-the-scenes. Meghan could also decide to take time off completely and focus on raising her newborn at Frogmore Cottage, the newly renovated home outside of London where Harry and Meghan now live.
In the U.K., employees can take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, including 39 weeks of paid leave, according to government guidelines.
Fathers in the U.K. are entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave.
It is expected that Harry will take some time off from official royal duties, but it is not yet clear for how long, according to Murphy. He stepped out Monday near Frogmore Cottage to announce his son’s birth, describing it as “the most amazing experience I could ever possibly imagine.”
Harry could follow in the footsteps of his brother, Prince William, who took time off after the births of each of his three children, though not as long as the time taken by his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
William took more defined paternity leave after the births of his older children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, because he was working as a helicopter pilot at the time.
After George’s birth, William was granted two weeks leave from his role as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot through statutory paternity leave, which Britain implemented in 2003. When Charlotte was born in 2015, William took nearly six weeks of paternity leave after finishing his air ambulance training and exams early.
By the time his third child, Prince Louis, was born last April, William had transitioned to being a full-time royal. Both he and Kate stepped out relatively soon after Louis’ birth for royal family events like Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May and Trooping the Colour in June.
Kate made her first public solo appearance last October, nearly eight months after Louis was born.
“Harry and Meghan might follow that model [of William and Kate] or they may go for a more shared parental model and both step back for equal amounts of time,” said Murphy.
Harry and Meghan have already demonstrated they are willing to do things differently when it comes to their child. They chose to keep the birth of their baby private and skipped the immediate post-birth photo op done by both Kate and William and William’s mother, the late Princess Diana.