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Global learning organisation Emerald Group and Islington Council become the latest employers in the UK to introduce premature baby leave policies.
Emerald Group and Islington Council have become the latest employers in the UK to introduce a neonatal policy for premature babies.
Emerald Group, a global learning company, is the 33rd employer to introduce a new policy for parents, which grants paid, extra time off to any employee whose baby is born prematurely and commits to support them on their return to work.
Its announcement was swiftly followed by a similar one by Islington Council.
In the UK, one in eight babies are born prematurely which means that many parents spend a significant amount of their parental leave time at hospital with their babies in a neonatal unit. This leaves mothers and fathers losing out on the time to bond with their babies once they are home, or potentially struggling financially to try to extend their planned parental leave.
Under current UK law, maternity/paternity leave begins the day after birth, regardless of whether the baby is premature. Emerald Group has introduced a new policy which sees the company paying parents full pay between the date of babies born before 37 weeks and their due date.
Mandi Viqueira, People Operations Manager at Emerald Group said: “Parents facing the worry and uncertainty of visiting their premature babies in hospital should not spend that time as maternity or paternity leave. We know that premature babies need more time to develop, grow and time for parents and babies to bond at home after neonatal intensive care.”
She added: “We understand that returning to work can be a difficult time for parents of premature babies and that babies born too soon can have ongoing medical needs, requiring regular hospital appointments and check-ups. So, we want to make sure that they feel supported at work by considering formal and informal flexible working patterns and offering additional paid or unpaid leave”.
Islington Council’s policy allows parents working at Islington Council additional paid leave if their baby is born prematurely, meaning that mothers are entitled to extended paid leave for the number of working days or weeks that their baby is born prematurely up to expected due date. The policy also means that fathers or same-sex partners of premature infants are entitled to four weeks’ additional paid leave up to the baby’s original due date. Meanwhile, if a baby is born full-term but has to be kept in hospital due to sickness, parents can receive up to four weeks’ neonatal leave.
Catriona Ogilvy, founder of The Smallest Things, a charity that campaigns for premature baby leave, said she was delighted Emerald Group and Islington Council had signed up to its Employer with Heart charter and will give parents of babies born prematurely the extra time they need. She added: “Visiting a fragile baby on a neonatal unit for weeks, sometimes months, is terrifying and shouldn’t be counted as maternity or paternity leave.”
The Government is currently analysing findings from a consultation into neonatal leave and pay from October 2019.