Guidance for employers to support working parents with premature or sick babies

ACAS has reported that over 95,000 premature or sick babies are born each year in the UK. As a result, it has issued new guidance for employers in supported affected parents they employ.


What is the law?


All new mothers are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, either ordinary or additional. Maternity leave will start on whichever of these dates is earliest:


  • the employee’s chosen start date, normally up to 11 weeks prior to the expected week of childbirth (EWC)
  • the day after the employee gives birth
  • the day after any day on which the employee is absent for a pregnancy related reason in the 4 weeks before the EWC


New mothers are required to take a minimum of 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave immediately following the birth of their baby.


An employee whose wife, civil partner or partner gives birth to a child, or who is the biological father of the child, is entitled to 2 weeks’ ordinary paid paternity leave provided that they have 26 weeks’ continuous service by the end of the 15th week before the week in which the child
is expected.


The employee must also have, or expect to have, responsibility for the upbringing of the child and be making the request to help care for the child or to support the child’s mother.


Employee responsibilities


The mother is required to give the employer a MAT B1 form, which will be issued by a doctor or midwife no more than 20 weeks before the EWC, and it must be signed by the doctor or midwife.  Following the birth of a child, the mother must also inform her employer as soon as possible, providing the date the child was born.


Babies that are stillborn or die after birth


Unfortunately, there is not always a happy ending and not all premature or sick babies will survive. This will be an extremely upsetting and stressful time for the parents and will affect people differently.  The mother is still entitled to take the full 52 weeks maternity leave. The same applies to mothers of stillborn babies after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The father is also entitled to his paternity leave. For further information and support visit


What can employers do to help?


There are a number of ways in supporting employees during this worrying time, such as agreeing to a flexible working pattern, additional or extended annual leave and unpaid leave.