The Smallest Things is delighted the Government have announced their Mothers Day Pledge today, to publish new guidelines on how employers can best support parents of premature babies. This is real recognition of the unique needs families of premature babies face during the weeks and months spent visiting their baby in neonatal intensive care. The Smallest Things has been working hard to highlight many of these difficulties and today’s announcement is a good start at addressing these.
Welcoming the announcement, Founder and Chair of The Smallest Things, Catriona Ogilvy said;
“This is wonderful news recognises the overwhelming support The Smallest Things campaign has received. This Mother’s Day weekend 7,000 mothers will have visited their baby in neonatal care, uncertain for the future. This guidance and recognition from the government as part their ‘Mothers Day Pledge’ of what is a highly stressful and difficult time will offer hope and reassurance to thousands of families beginning their journey through neonatal care each year.
The impact on families of a baby being born prematurely lasts for many, many years and The Smallest Things will keep on working to support and raise awareness of these needs.”
Making the announcement, the Minister, Margot James MP, who has championed this issue within government, made special mention of her meeting with The Smallest Things. This is a recognition that the governments ‘Mothers Day Pledge’ is down to all of you – the hundreds of people who have shared their very personal, often difficult stories with us, the 129,000 people who have signed our petition, and everyone who has read, ‘liked’ or shared our pages. The support of several MPs from all parties, including Steve Reed MP who introduced his Bill on extending parental leave, has also been crucial.
Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss, said “At Bliss we have for many years championed the need for developing guidelines around handling requests for leave and flexibility from parents of premature and sick babies, and therefore welcome the government’s announcement today which recognises that mums of babies born premature ‘deserve respect and support from everyone’. In order to guarantee that support is available to parents, we will continue to campaign for changes to maternity leave legislation that better supports parents of premature and sick babies”.
The announcement of new guidance today is a huge step forward. But it is only that – a step. We now need to ensure that this becomes a reality in practice for all families of premature babies and continue to recognise that time spent visiting a baby in neonatal intensive care feels very far removed from what maternity leave should be for thousands of mother’s. We look forward to working with the government on developing the guidance and welcome Minister Margot James’ commitment to review progress on this including additional steps, such as changes to the law, if needed.
Read Government Minister Margot James’ statement below:
Every year tens of thousands of new-born babies in the UK are taken into special care units, either because they have been born prematurely or are suffering from serious health problems.
Instead of enjoying those special first days as a new family at home, these parents and their babies often have to spend weeks – if not months – in unfamiliar hospital surroundings, frequently separated from each other as both recover.
At what is already an emotional time, this separation can be highly stressful for parents, with many mothers reportedly experiencing post-natal depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder. These early days are the first steps in a life-long journey, and we must do all we can to provide support.
It’s clear that these mothers deserve respect and support from everyone. That’s true of the partners and medical professionals who are involved from day one, but it’s also true of employers.
I’ve spent time with mothers like Catriona Ogilvy, introduced to me by Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, who has been brave enough to speak out about her experiences, and charities Bliss and The Smallest Things to better understand how important it is for working mothers and fathers to feel secure in their work and supported by their employers at such a difficult time.
“The period after birth can be highly stressful for parents, with many mothers reportedly experiencing post-natal depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder”
While most employers do treat their staff with compassion and flexibility, we want to remove any doubt for mothers about what their rights are, and equip employers with the correct tools to provide support.
We already have one of the most generous maternity systems in the world, with all eligible mothers able to take up to 52 weeks leave and up to 39 weeks of pay. This Government is working hard to support them, with a number of measures in place designed to assist with childcare responsibilities like Shared Parental Leave and the right to ask for flexible working arrangements.
But I have heard the concerns of affected mothers who feel that appropriate support is not always available, and I am determined that all working parents should be aware of their rights and feel confident in talking to their employer about them.
That’s why I am announcing that we will be drawing up best practice guidelines for employers on how to support mothers with premature babies.
This guide will not only spell out measures available to parents, but also advise employers on how to handle requests for time off sympathetically, and how best to organise flexible working arrangements for their staff.
I am confident businesses will welcome these new guidelines and act on our advice, but I will of course keep progress under review, and do not rule out legislating in the future if our advice is not heeded.
Working mothers deserve our support, and those who give birth to premature babies should expect nothing less than total backing from their employers. It is my belief that this Government’s Mother’s Day pledge will make a real difference to the lives of thousands of mothers and babies, now and in the years to come.”