Parents of premature babies to be given extra leave by Southwark Council

11 October 2018

Southwark Council has taken the proactive step to support employees who are parents of babies born prematurely by signing up to the Employer with a Heart charter from charity The Smallest Things.

The new policy means parents of babies born at or before 37 weeks will be entitled to receive an extra week’s Premature Baby Leave and Premature Baby Pay for every week their premature baby spends in hospital before their due date.

In the UK 95,000 babies are born prematurely each year. When a baby is born too early some aspects of their development are not complete and they may not be ready for life outside of the womb. Many of these babies therefore, will need urgent neonatal care after birth and are likely to be hospitalised for a longer period than babies born at full term. This means parents of premature babies often have to wait weeks for their new-born baby to be allowed home.

Having a premature baby is one of the most stressful experiences a new parent can face. During the period babies remain in hospital, parents often have to travel back and forth from hospital, for parents with other children this can be particularly challenging as they manage the birth of their premature baby alongside their other children.

Most employers still do not offer this assistance to staff and Southwark Council is one of the first employers in the UK to take this step to support parents of premature babies. The new policy came into effect on September 1 2018.

Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Cabinet Member for Housing Management and Modernisation said: “Becoming a parent can be a wonderful but also incredibly stressful time and for the parents of premature babies this stress can be multiplied manifold. I am incredibly proud that we are among the first employers in the UK to offer this extra support to our staff. I hope that this policy will give all prospective parents piece of mind that we are here to support them when they need it most. I also want to commend Catriona Ogilvy for the work that she has done to raise this important issue.”

Catriona Ogilvy, founder of The Smallest Things charity, said: "We are delighted that Southwark Council has signed up to our Employer with Heart charter and are now offering additional paid parental leave for staff whose babies are born premature. Mothers wait days, if not weeks, to hold their babies for the first time, lose precious time to bond and experience higher levels of mental health difficulties following the trauma of neonatal intensive care. This extra time will give parents the chance to bond with their babies at home and the time they need to recover from the trauma themselves."

Unison said: “In response to representation from the trade union UNISON, the council determined to review it’s maternity leave policy in respect of the Small Things Matter Campaign.  UNISON is very pleased the council agreed to take up this campaign and has amended it’s policies accordingly.  UNISON urges all employers who consider themselves to be progressive to take the same steps”.

GMB said: "The GMB welcomes the council's premature babies policy which will give significant support to staff at a difficult time.   Those who benefit will do so as a result of the hard work and drive of those amongst unions and management who have negotiated this fine example of joint working."

Unite said: “Unite were pleased to be party to the development of this progressive new policy. It will make a real difference to colleagues and their families at a really difficult point in their lives. It is an embodiment of Southwark’s own fairer future values.”

Page last updated: 11 October 2018