Each year 95,000 babies in the UK require specialist neonatal care. Worry and uncertainty form part of the daily routine, and all the while mothers spend this time, their maternity leave, visiting their fragile baby in hospital.
Returning to work is far from their mind.
New ACAS guidance published today aims to;
- support working parents with premature or sick babies
- help employers to support staff who have given birth to premature or ill babies
Business Minister Margot James MP said:
“Working parents deserve support at work, and those who have premature babies should expect nothing less than total backing from their employers at what can be an exceptionally difficult and worrying time.
Most employers already treat their staff with compassion and flexibility. This guidance removes any doubt for parents about what their rights are and lets employers know how best to provide support.”
The Smallest Things helped to shape the guidelines, working closely with Acas to ensure that the realities of neonatal care as well as the ongoing difficulties faced by parents were included.
Welcoming the new guidance, The Smallest Things Founder and Chair Catriona Ogilvy said;
“The Smallest Things has been campaigning for better employment rights for parents of premature babies for a number of years. The publication of the ACAS guidance is a big step, recognising for the first time the unique needs faced by parents following premature birth.
While we welcome the guidance, support must be available for all families affected by premature birth. We particularly welcome therefore the Ministers commitment to reviewing the guidance, including taking future additional steps if needed, such as legislative changes.”
The Smallest Things has campaigned for an extension in paid statutory maternity leave for mothers following premature birth.
Recognising the significant emotional and financial cost of time spent in neonatal intensive care, extended leave would give a mother the emotional and financial support needed at a time of great stress and trauma – in turn leading to better postnatal health, a more positive return to work and better outcomes for babies development.
Last year a change.org petition calling upon Minister Margot James to extend maternity leave for mothers of premature babies gained nearly 130,000 signatures.
In a Mumsnet Editorial Minister Margot James said;
“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.”