Rights and benefits after a neonatal death

Thinking about things like finances can be difficult after losing a baby. But knowing how much time you can take off work and how you can support yourself financially may help reduce extra stress.

Maternity leave and pay    

If your baby has died after birth, you are entitled to full maternity leave, and any maternity pay that you qualify for. 

If you are employed, you’re entitled to a total of 52 weeks of leave (if you told your employer that you were pregnant at least 15 weeks before your expected due date). Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. 

If you do not want to stay off work for the full 52 weeks you can give 8 weeks’ notice to return to work early. 

If your maternity leave had not started yet

Your maternity leave and any maternity pay that you qualify for will start on the day after your baby was born. If you qualify, you are entitled to 52 weeks’ leave and 39 weeks’ maternity pay. If you don’t want to stay off work for the full 52 weeks, you can give 8 weeks’ notice to return to work early. 

If you had already started your maternity leave and pay

If you had already started your maternity leave and pay before your baby was born, you’re entitled to continue with your leave and receive your maternity pay. You are entitled to 52 weeks’ leave and 39 weeks’ maternity pay. If you do not want to stay off work for the full 52 weeks, you can give 8 weeks’ notice to return to work early.

You can get Statutory Maternity Pay even if you don’t plan to go back to work. You do not have to pay Statutory Maternity Pay back if you do not return to work. 

Find out more about maternity leave and pay

If you took sick leave during your pregnancy

If you’re off sick while you’re pregnant, it can affect how much Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay you get. Different rules might apply depending on whether your illness is related to your pregnancy or not. 

“I was signed off sick when I was around 13 weeks pregnant until I gave birth to Jacob at 25 weeks. This meant that I was not entitled to any sort of maternity pay. This was never explained to me by my company, which caused a great deal of stress during the already most difficult time. I had to try to claim Maternity Allowance instead.”


Maternity Action has more information about sickness during pregnancy and how this may affect maternity leave.

Paternity Leave

If your baby dies after the birth, partners (including same-sex partners) are entitled to paternity leave and pay if you:

  • are an employee
  • have given notice at least 15 weeks before your baby was due
  • have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the ‘qualifying week, which is the 15th week before the baby was due. 

Find out more at Maternity Action

If you need more time off work

If you’re not ready to return to work after your maternity leave, there are other options for taking more time off work.

Annual leave

You accrue (earn) annual leave while you’re on maternity leave. Ask your employer if you can take this immediately after your maternity leave. 

Unpaid leave

You can ask your employer if they will agree to a further period of unpaid leave. Your employer does not have to agree to it. 

Sick leave

Speak to your GP if you have any concerns about your health or you’re having ongoing treatment. For example, if you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as depression or PTSD. They can help you decide if you are ready to go back to work. If you’re not ready to return to work, they can organise a fit note. In a fit note, your doctor will tell your employer that you’re not fit to work or they might suggest ways that your employer can help you get back to work. For example, this might include flexible working.

Shared parental leave

Shared parental leave allows parents to share the birth parent’s maternity leave if they return to work early or cut short their leave/pay to transfer to their partner. It is not extra leave. But it’s important to know that parents are not entitled to book shared parental leave following the death of their child.

If you have given notice before the birth of your baby to take shared parental leave and your baby dies after the birth, you are entitled to take the leave that you have already been booked.  

Returning to work on reduced hours

All employees can make an application for flexible working if you would like to return to work part-time or want to ask for changes to your hours, days or place of work. Your employer must consider your application reasonably and give you a decision within 3 months. They can only refuse for a good business reason. 

Maternity Allowance

You can apply for Maternity Allowance if you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. For example, if you changed jobs, your earnings are too low or you are currently unemployed. You can find the MA1 claim form online.

If you are not entitled to Maternity Allowance, the same claim form can be used to check whether you can get Employment and Support Allowance instead. 

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay

You can take 2 weeks parental bereavement leave following the death of a child if you are an employee and you give the correct notice. You can take the leave at any time from the date of your baby’s death up to 56 weeks.

You can take Statutory Parental Bereavement Leave/Pay in addition to any maternity or paternity leave/pay you qualify for. You may qualify for it even if you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay or Statutory Paternity Pay. 

Find out more about Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave.

Other benefits

Child Benefit 

You’re entitled to up to 8 weeks of Child Benefit if you claim it within 3 months of your baby’s death. If your baby died before the end of the week they were born in, the 8 weeks starts from the Monday following this. 

Find out more about Child Benefit after a child dies.

Child Tax Credit 

If you were claiming tax credits before your baby died, your payments may change. You’ll need to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) within 1 month of the death. You can continue to get tax credits for up to 8 weeks following the death.

If your baby died before you claimed Tax Credits, you can still claim. Call HMRC to claim

Sure Start Maternity Grant (the Best Start Grant in Scotland)

You can still get the grant if you qualify. You must make a claim within 3 months of the birth. 

Free prescriptions and dental treatment 

You still have a right to free prescriptions and dental treatment. Ask your doctor or midwife to complete a Maternity Exemption form (FW8) online on your behalf. The certificate is then sent to you either by post or email.  

Healthy Start vouchers 

You won’t be able to get any more vouchers if you have been using this scheme, but you can use any vouchers you’ve already claimed

Help with funeral costs

You may be able to get some financial support to help with any funeral costs. Find out more about planning a funeral for your baby

More support and information

Maternity Action is the UK’s maternity rights charity dedicated to promoting, protecting and enhancing the rights of all pregnant women, new mothers and their families to employment, social security and health care.

MoneyHelper is a free service provided by the Money and Pensions Service. is helping people to clear their debts, reduce spending and make the most of their income. 

Citizens Advice is an independent charity  specialising in confidential information and advice to assist people with legal, debt, consumer, housing and other problems.

Maternity Action. Miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death – rights to time off and pay. https://maternityaction.org.uk/advice/miscarriage-stillbirth-and-neonatal-death-rights-to-time-off-and-pay-for-parents/

Gov.UK Maternity Allowance. https://www.gov.uk/maternity-allowance

Gov.UK Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave. https://www.gov.uk/parental-bereavement-pay-leave
NHS. Maternity and Paternity benefits and leave. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/finding-out/maternity-and-paternity-benefits-and-leave/ (Page last reviewed: 20 April 2021 Next review due: 20 April 2024)

Review dates
Reviewed: 20 May 2022
Next review: 20 May 2025