Currently, maternity leave entitles mothers to take 52 weeks, which is split thus:
- 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave
- 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. Proposals have been put forward requesting a change to the law so that mothers can be granted either:
- When the birth happens before maternity leave has started, the mother’s leave begins on the day after the baby was born. Campaigners suggest it’s unfair that in the case of premature birth that requires the newborn to remain in the hospital for several weeks, the countdown continues and the mother loses valuable maternity leave.
- An extra week of leave for every week the premature baby remains in hospital
- Or 12 months guaranteed leave from the originally expected week of childbirth – even if the baby is born earlyIt’s thought that the costs to small businesses to grant more than 52 weeks’ leave would be substantial, and this alone is likely to discourage the government from extending maternity leave rights.
- Changes to leave have been introduced to parliament in the Maternity and Paternity Leave (Premature Birth) Bill, but, again, this is a Private Member’s Bill, so unlikely to become law.