The neonatal charity, Bliss and BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates recently published the results of a survey which asked fathers of premature and sick babies about their experiences at work. 77% of the fathers reported that they are not given enough time off work and around 10% said that they had to leave their job altogether because of their child’s prolonged stay in hospital. The survey also found that 66% of fathers returned to work while their baby was still receiving neonatal care.
The survey comes after Theresa May was urged during Prime Minister’s Questions in November 2018 to extend statutory paternity pay in cases where the baby is born prematurely or with complications. The Prime Minister indicated that the government is reviewing the rules in this area and is expected to deliver its findings in 2019.
Currently, statutory paternity leave is for two weeks which means that often, fathers with premature and ill babies will have used up this leave before their baby has left the hospital.
The recommendations in this guidance include:
• Reminding the parent of their statutory entitlements, including shared parental and paternity leave.
• Communicating sensitively and asking if the parent is happy to be contacted and what they would like colleagues to be told about their situation.
• Being flexible regarding time off and considering extended leave, as the baby may require follow up hospital appointments or their partner may need additional support.
• Being receptive to informal or formal flexible working requests (e.g. flexitime, part-time working and homeworking).
The main premise of the guidance is that “employers should try to balance the needs of the business with understanding the pressures facing parents”.
The charity Bliss says that it believes the current statutory provisions are not good for families nor are they good for employers when such parents are either struggling to work under immense stress and worry or having to sign off sick or give up their jobs rather than take a planned leave of absence.
It will be interesting to see if the Government decides to extend the rules for families of premature and ill babies to take into account the challenging circumstances they experience.