There are over 95,000 babies born prematurely in the UK every year. Currently there are no enhanced or additional maternity or paternity rights for parents of babies born early.
If a baby is born early and maternity leave has not already started, the mother’s maternity leave starts on the day after her baby was born. Mothers are entitled to 52 weeks’ leave, made up of 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave in the usual way.
While there is nothing in place for leave to last longer where babies are born early, it is important for companies to be aware of how difficult and stressful this time can be for parents and employers are now being urged to be understanding and supportive of staff who give birth to premature babies.
This month the conciliation service ACAS published advice for employers on how to help the parents of ill or premature babies. The guidance includes:
- being compassionate and sensitive in communicating the baby's arrival
- acknowledging the birth - ask parents what they want colleagues to know
- offering financial support such as loans or salary advances
- making employees aware of statutory entitlements to leave and pay, such as paternity leave and shared parental leave
- being flexible in giving parents time off for the baby's hospital appointments
Business Minister Margot James said:
"Working parents deserve support at work, and those who have premature babies should expect nothing less than total backing from their employers at what can be an exceptionally difficult and worrying time.
"Most employers already treat their staff with compassion and flexibility. This guidance removes any doubt for parents about what their rights are and lets employers know how best to provide support."
To see ACAS’ full advice you should visit www.acas.org.uk/prematurebabies