Extended maternity leave for premature births?

Mothers of premature babies are campaigning for their statutory maternity leave to be increased.

Over 100,000 signatures have now been added to an online petition supporting an extra week of leave for every week that the parents have to spend waiting in hospital for their baby to come home.

MP Steve Reed submitted a motion in Parliament to debate possible changes to the law to extend maternity leave for women who have an early birth. In his article published by The Times, he argues that “By the time they are well enough to go home, months of maternity leave may already have been used up leaving these exceptionally vulnerable babies at a further disadvantage.”

MPs will debate this on Friday 16 December.

What is the current Law on premature births?
Female employees are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave.

In the case of women who give birth prematurely, maternity leave will commence on the day after the baby is born. This means that the end of the employee’s maternity leave is moved forward and unlike in some other countries, leave is not extended.

Additionally, if an employee is absent from work in the last four weeks before her baby is due for a pregnancy-related reason, her maternity leave will begin from the day which follows the date of her first absence.

Is it likely that this law will pass?
It seems unlikely for two reasons.

Firstly, a spokesman for the Department for Business said that “The UK’s maternity system is one of the most generous in the world. The current system strikes the right balance between the needs of new mums, including those whose baby has been born prematurely, and employers.”

Secondly, what MP Steve Reed has submitted is a Private Member’s Bill, and these rarely get through the legislative process.

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