New advice for employers to help them support staff who have premature or sick babies has been released by Acas and the Government today.
The advice includes guidelines for companies to follow in order to handle their employees' needs with care and sensitivity. This includes asking parents about whether or not they wish to be contacted whilst they are away from work and whether they would like their colleagues to know about their situation.
In addition, Acas advises employers to make mothers and fathers aware of their statutory entitlements around leave and pay such as paternity and shared parental leave. Employers should also take into consideration a parent's need for flexibility around their working hours whilst their baby is in hospital as well as be understanding about a parent's need to take time off to attend follow up hospital appointments.
Bliss helped to shape the content of the guidelines by working closely with Acas to ensure the range of neonatal experiences faced by parents was captured, including full-term admissions and bereavement. We also provided parent feedback on the guidance to ensure it is as useful for parents as it is for employers.
Acas Chief Executive, Anne Sharp, said: "Our new advice helps explain the law within this complicated area in a way that will help employers support working parents whilst taking account of the needs of their business."
Caroline Lee-Davey, Bliss Chief Executive, said: "The new Acas guidelines are a welcome and useful resource for employers who can now see clearly the measures they can take to support their employees, if their baby is born premature or sick.
"While this guidance is a good step in the right direction, it is only through legislation that employees can be guaranteed appropriate support when their baby is born needing neonatal care. Many babies need weeks or months of care before going home, and some will sadly never go home at all. This is a deeply distressing time for families, and thousands of parents every year find large amounts of their maternity and paternity leave spent anxiously by the side of an incubator, rather than at home bonding with their baby.
"This is why Bliss continues to call on the Government to extend parental leave so it reflects the length of time a baby spends in neonatal care. Our own research has found that 84 per cent of parents who had spent time on a neonatal unit said that parental leave was not long enough and that 17 per cent of parents said their employer had not made special arrangements to accommodate to their needs1."
To see Acas’ full advice to employers, please visit: www.acas.org.uk/prematurebabies
- From Bliss' Parental Leave Survey 2017 conducted among 223 parents who had spent time on a neonatal unit