Are reforms due on maternity rights for parents who have premature babies?

Dispute Resolution - 1 minute read

Over 105,000 believe so, and they have signed a petition requesting the Government to extend the length of time granted for parents who have premature babies.

Whether this is feasible or not for employers is clearly an issue which will weigh heavily in the minds of those with the power to change legislation.

The UK does fair well with respect to granting time off for maternity leave already compared to many other countries within the EU (if you would like to see some stats, visit: 

Whilst it is unlikely that an employer will be taken to a tribunal for discrimination related to maternity leave in this context in time soon (although in litigation, anything can happen!), they should nonetheless carefully consider their options in relation to maternity leave policies.

The proposed amendment (which was voiced in the Commons on 25 October 2016) could oblige employers to delay the start of maternity leave and pay to being only after the period for which the premature baby is under hospital care.

Practically speaking, this is great for parents. A lot of pressure though for businesses.

It is unclear whether there is any medium ground to be found. We shall wait and see what fruit this brings in due time.

Current law stipulates that employers must grant up to 52 weeks maternity leave.

An employee can choose to start maternity leave on any day, provided that it is not longer than 11 weeks before the week the baby is due. However, if a baby is born prematurely, the employee’s maternity leave starts automatically on the day after the birth.

Employers are currently under no obligation to extend the period of maternity leave or delay it to a later date. This current legal position therefore doesn’t take into consideration that premature babies sometimes spend extended time in hospital, meaning parents often aren’t afforded their desired amount of time at home with their newborn.