19350 - Maternity Pay (Answered)

Mrs Anne Main
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps he is taking to support parents of babies who spend time in neonatal care; if he will take steps to extend the statutory maternity pay of premature babies; and if he will estimate the cost to the public purse of such steps.

Priti Patel

The Government currently has no plans to extend Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for the parents of premature or sick babies who spend time in neo-natal care.

SMP is designed to help working women during pregnancy and after childbirth by providing a measure of earnings replacement enabling them to stop work for a reasonable period around the birth to prepare for and recover from childbirth.

Working women are generally able to choose when they want their payments to begin and this flexibility in the start date for maternity pay was introduced in response to medical opinion that the woman herself is best able to judge the point at which she should give up work. This ensures sufficient time off to allow for different situations, including instances where babies are delivered at an earlier date and where babies need hospital care following birth.

The standard rate of SMP is part of a package of financial support to working families which includes Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay, Parental Leave and Flexible working. Tax Credits and Child Benefit are also available through HM Revenue and Customs to all families who qualify.

Additionally, the introduction of Statutory Shared Parental Leave and Pay for babies due on or after 5 April 2015 enables eligible mothers, fathers, and partners to choose how to share time off work after their child is born, giving parents much more flexibility in how to use their leave entitlement. This flexibility will be particularly valuable to parents who have to deal with difficult or unexpected circumstances and it allows parents, for the first time, to take leave together in a way that suits them.