All working parents deserve support at work, and those who have premature babies should expect nothing less than total backing from their employers at what can be an exceptionally difficult and worrying time.
So as an employer are you aware of the statutory entitlements and the best ways in which to support your employees with premature or sick babies? Here are some of the best practice guidelines to help you manage employees through this difficult period.
MAT B1 forms must be provided in order to receive maternity benefits. In such circumstances as a premature baby, mothers are unable to obtain a MAT B1 form before the baby is born. In the chaos of it all the parents may forget or not be aware of the statutory requirements for SMP so, when/if appropriate, the employer could give the employee a supportive reminder. We would always recommend providing expectant employees with a Maternity Pack which highlights such points and helps plan for their maternity leave. This will prepare the employee should something like this happen and be a central point of reference during any stage of their pregnancy/birth.
Communication is always a grey area when an employee goes on maternity leave. Employers should always ask the parents if they are happy to be contacted and what the best way of doing so is.
Take care when first communicating with the employee after the birth of their child. Usually congratulations are in order, however it may not be appropriate in some circumstances, but it is still important to acknowledge the birth perhaps a “thinking of you and baby card” or a personalised video message from the team.
It’s important to remember that an employer is also compassionate towards the fatherpartner of the mother. This would be a worrying and unsettling time for them as well and their main priority will be supporting mother and baby. As their employer you may need to be more flexible with time off or working hours. It is important to remind fathers and partners that they are eligible for Paternity leave and pay.
Family Friendly Entitlements
To further support the parents, remind the employee about their entitlement to parental leave, special leave and/or (if you are happy to accept shorter notification) shared parental leave. Perhaps refer them to the policies within your employee handbook so they can digest the information in their own time.
Communication to their colleagues
Employers should sensitively ask the parents what they would like to tell their colleagues. The extra support of their work colleagues could really help the parent feel supported by their company, making the transition back to work easier when they are ready. Some parents will prefer privacy and it is then up to the employer to ensure that this is communicated to their colleagues to ensure no upset it caused.
Death of a baby
Sadly some parents experience the death of their baby. It is important to remember that the mother is still entitled to take up to 52 weeks of Maternity leave and 39 weeks of Statutory Maternity pay (if eligible). Similarly the father/partner of the mother is also able to receive Paternity leave and pay (if eligible). Ensure that this is communicated this to the employee compassionately and at an appropriate time.
Returning to work
Returning to work can be a difficult time for most parents, however if the baby is born early or sick and still in hospital this can leave the parents feeling more anxious and worried than normal.
Employers should recognise the need to support the employee by providing them with a flexible return to work plan, balancing the needs of the business and their parental pressures. It is also important to provide a return to work plan that is well structured and eases the employee into their role at a pace they are comfortable at.
Employers should always seriously consider flexible working requests. Refer to a flexible working policy and discuss the options with the employee upon their return. This may help make them feel more supported and alleviate their work worries.
If you need further clarification or would like to discuss any of the guidelines above, please do get in touch with HR Revolution, where our friendly HR experts are here to help.