Each year 95,000 premature or sick babies are born in the UK. Premature babies are those born before 37 weeks gestation. Babies are extremely preterm if they are born before 28 weeks, very preterm if they are born before 32 weeks and moderate to late preterm if they are born between 32 and 37 weeks. Understandably this is a very difficult time for families.

If a baby is born prematurely the employee should notify their employer as soon as possible. If an employed mother is off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week that the baby is due, her maternity leave and pay will start automatically – regardless of what has previously been agreed in respect of start dates, and even if the employee has only been off work for a short period of time.

It is common for very sick babies to require care in a specialist neonatal unit and this can be some distance away from the employee’s home.

A MAT B1 form is issued by a doctor or midwife and enables the new mother to claim Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance. It is possible that the mother has not been able to obtain the MAT B1 because their baby is premature and either the mother or the baby, or both are sick. At the same time, there may be significant extra costs, travel and child care etc. If this is the case it can be helpful if an employer can offer financial support at this time.

If the mother or the child are very sick, employers need to be sensitive about contacting them, the advice is normally for the parents to be asked if they are happy to be contacted and whether the parents would like their employer to tell their colleagues about their situation. Obviously, all communication must be done compassionately and sensitively.

Don’t forget that partners and fathers will also require support and may be able to take paternity leave as soon as the baby has been born.

If the baby dies, the mother can still take her maternity leave and her pay if she is entitled to it. If the baby is still born after 24 weeks of pregnancy, or if the baby dies after birth, the mother is still entitled to her maternity rights. The same applies for paternity pay and leave.

In this situation, the same as any employee suffering a bereavement, the mother and her family will require ongoing support and understanding. Everyone is different and a conversation with the employee about how the business can support them will be helpful to everyone, both in the short term and the long term.

Pregnant employees are allowed to work up to ten days during maternity or adoption leave without bringing the leave or pay to an end. You can also work up to 20 SPLIT days without ending shared parental leave or losing statutory shared parental pay.

When you work either a Keep in Touch (KIT) day or a Shared Parental Leave In Touch (SPLIT) day, you might be doing your usual job role, attending a training course or meeting, doing a project or anything that is agreed between you and your employer. Even if you work a short day for a few hours, this will still count as a full KIT or SPLIT day.

You also need to agree with your employer if you will be paid for these days, there is no statutory right to be paid, but if you are this will not affect your maternity or parental pay.


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky is the owner of HR Support Consultancy. She has a BA(Hons) in Business Studies, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and has been a practising HR manager for more than 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA Members Advisory Service (formerly known as the Industrial Relations Service) since it began in 2002.

Email: nickyackerley@hrsupportconsultancy.co.uk

DOI: 10.1080/17415349.2020.1743494 

Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 35 • May 2020 •