Premature birth - information for managers

A premature baby, or preemie, is an infant who is born earlier than usual. There are different levels of prematurity, and generally there is a higher risk of problems the earlier the baby is born.

Sometimes a baby may arrive early without warning, although some women are told before or during their pregnancy that they may be at risk of going into premature labour.

In many cases, the reasons for a premature birth are unknown. However, there are some factors that can increase the risk of prematurity, including hazards in the workplace. 

Your risk assessment will help to identify any hazards that may affect your employee. Regular monitoring of her working conditions throughout her pregnancy will also help reduce stress and anxiety, which have been linked to an increased incidence ofpremature birth

Maternity benefits and premature birth

Maternity leave

If your employee’s baby is premature, and she needs to begin her maternity leave before the start of her Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), she should let you know as soon as possible.

If your employee’s baby is born before she’s given you notice of the start of OML, she should let you know within 28 days, or as soon as practicably possible.

She will need to let you know her baby’s date of birth and confirm the date of her absence from work. She will also need to give you a copy of form MAT B1 if she hasn’t already done so.

If your employee’s baby is born before her maternity leave begins, OML starts from the day after the birth.  Click here for more information on OML.

Maternity pay

If your employee’s baby is born after she has begun maternity leave but before her due date, she should continue to receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) as agreed with you.

If her baby is born before she has begun to receive SMP but after the qualifying weeks, she should still receive her full SMP but the payment will begin from the day after the birth. She should inform you within three weeks of her baby’s birth if possible.

If her baby is born before or during the qualifying week for entitlement to SMP, she should provide you with the following so that SMP may be payable on the day after the birth:

  • written evidence (such as the baby’s birth certificate) to show that the reason she was not at work was because of her baby’s birth
  • evidence of the date that the baby was due to be born (her doctor or midwife can provide this information by completing Part B of the MAT B1 form).

Your employee should provide you with this evidence within three weeks. If that’s not possible, you can agree to extend this to no later than 13 weeks.

In normal circumstances, your employee should have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before her baby is due. With a premature birth, you should still apply the continuous employment rule if she would have satisfied it had her baby been born on time.

The period used to calculate your employee’s average weekly earnings should be the eight weeks ending with the Saturday before her baby was born.  Click here for more information on maternity pay.

Supporting your employee

Depending on how early she gave birth and any medical issues the baby has, your employee may need to spend a lot of time in the neonatal unit. Any health problems may affect the date of her return to work and she may request to work flexibly on her return. Regular communication with her while she’s away will help to make her return as smooth as possible.

Click here to find out more about premature birth.