Parental leave

When a baby is born premature or sick, large amounts – or even all – of a parents' parental leave can be used before their baby is home from hospital.

Here you can find out about the different types of leave and how they don’t always work for premature or sick babies, and what Bliss has been doing.

What are the different types of leave?

Mums can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave, depending on if they meet the criteria. Mums can choose to start their maternity leave before their baby is born, but if their baby is born before their chosen date their leave will start from the date of their baby’s birth. Dads, mum’s partner or civil partner will be able to take up to two weeks paternity leave. This has to be taken with 56 days of the baby being born.

Since April 2015, mums and dads have been able to use shared parental leave. 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.

If a baby sadly dies or is stillborn, parents are still entitled to take their full parental leave. There is also currently a Bereavement Leave and Pay Bill passing through Parliament which will give parents additional paid leave if their child dies.

Problems for parents of premature or sick babies

Some babies will spend many weeks or months receiving care on the neonatal unit before they are well enough to go home. This means many parents use large amounts – or even all - of their leave entitlement before their baby goes home. The neonatal environment is stressful, and parents need time to bond and adjust to time at home. Some babies will also have significant ongoing needs and may not be ready to be left in childcare by the time parents have to start work again.

Bliss’ It's not a game report 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.

I lost three months while he was in hospital. Using maternity leave to visit him while he was 50 miles away every day felt like a kick in the teeth. I wanted more time with my baby at home.

Campaign and progress

Bliss and other organisations like The Smallest Things have been campaigning for the Government to extend parental leave and pay for parents of premature or sick babies so it reflects the length of time babies have spent in hospital:

  • On World Prematurity Day 2016, Bliss joined The Smallest Things to hand in their petition to the Minister responsible for parental leave. So far 180,000 people had signed, joining their call to extend leave for mums of premature babies.
  • On Mother's day 2017 the Government made a Mother's Day Pledge to develop guidelines for employers so they can better support families when their baby is born premature or sick.
  • Bliss worked with ACAS to develop Workplace support for parents of premature or sick babies

But there's still more to do. Without legislation parents will still not have the time at home they need with their baby.

Make sure you check back here for ways to get involved!