New maternity entitlements reach premature babies

Women
giving birth on 24 November 2002 may be the first to be entitled to the one
year’s maternity leave set to take effect from 6 April 2003, according to law
firm Osborne Clarke.

This
is because the legislation has taken into account the fact that some babies
arrive earlier than expected.

Maternity
and Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2002, which come into force on 24
November 2002, will allow mothers of babies due on or after 6 April 2003 and
who have sufficient service to receive an extra 12 weeks’ maternity leave.

This
brings the total period of absence allowed up to one year. Yet, what was not
highlighted when this new legislation was first publicised in the press is that
a mother is still entitled to this amount of maternity leave even if the baby
is born early, providing it is born on or after the date that these regulations
take effect – 24th November 2002.

Employment
expert Danielle Kingdon, partner at Osborne Clarke, explained: "If a
mother with a baby due on 6 April 2003 gives birth prematurely on 24 November
2002 (the day the regulations come into force), she will be the first mother in
the UK to be entitled to one year’s maternity leave, so long as she has served
sufficient service."

She
adds: "If a baby due on 6 April were born on 24 November and does not
survive, which it may not as it will only be 21 weeks gestation, the mother
will still be entitled to one year’s leave, as long as the baby is born alive,
even if it dies shortly after birth."

However,
Kingdon points out that a mother whose baby is stillborn at less than 24 weeks
gestation will not be entitled to these benefits. Although, where a baby is
stillborn after 24 weeks gestation, the mother will be entitled to these
benefits as long as the expected week of childbirth is on or after 6 April
2003.

For
fathers looking to take paternity leave, the Paternity and Adoption Leave
Regulations 2002 come into force on 8 December 2002. This gives fathers of
babies due on or after 6 April 03 the right to two weeks’ paid paternity leave.

"As
with the new maternity regulations, the father is still entitled to these
benefits even if the baby is born early, so long as it is not earlier than the
day that this legislation comes into force," notes Kingdon.

Kingdon
also highlights that mothers and fathers of babies due on or after 6 April 2003
are now obliged to notify their employer of their proposed starting date for
maternity or paternity leave 15 weeks before due date.

Kingdon
claims: "Parents of babies due in April 2003 will need to notify employers
of their starting dates in Deember 2002, whereas previously, in the case of
maternity leave, they only had to notify 21 days before."

By Ben Willmott

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