The parental leave system
Currently, mums can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave and dads are able to take up to two weeks paternity leave. To find out more detailed information on maternity and paternity leave visit the Directgov website.
Under new Government proposals, mums and dads have been able to share leave since April 2015. For mums there has been no change and their maternity leave starts as soon as their baby is born. However, they can then either take all 52 weeks themselves, or choose to share some of this with their partner. For example, a mum could finish her leave at 26 weeks and her partner claim the rest, or they could both take 26 weeks together immediately after their baby’s birth. These reforms may benefit some parents with a baby in hospital for several weeks or months, when both parents want to be there at the hospital.
Problems for parents of premature or sick babies
The length of maternity and paternity leave does not recognise the difficulty for parents whose leave begins long before they can take their baby home from hospital. This will still be the case even under the new proposals and in some cases mums and dads will have to return to work while their baby is still in neonatal care.
Recent research by Bliss found that almost 60 per cent of parents of premature or sick babies felt that maternity leave was not long enough; with parents using much of their leave while their baby is in hospital and having little time left when they come home.
Parents also report problems submitting MAT B1 forms (needed to start receiving maternity pay), and in dealing with unsympathetic employers who sometimes lack awareness of what it means to have a premature or sick baby.
What Bliss is calling for
Bliss is calling for change and our campaign recommends:
- The Government extend maternity leave and statutory maternity pay for parents of premature or sick babies.
- The Government publishes advice for all employers about how to best support parents of premature or sick babies.
- MAT B1 forms should be available on all neonatal units.
- Large employers should have a policy in place for supporting parents of premature or sick babies.