London hospital extends leave for staff whose babies are born premature

University College London Hospital becomes an Employer with Heart, extending parental leave for staff whose babies are born premature.

UCLH has been named an “employer with heart”, becoming the first London hospital to introduce extra support and paid leave to staff whose babies are born prematurely or need neonatal care.

Founder of The Smallest Things charity, Catriona Ogilvy, said: “We are delighted that UCLH have taken these step towards supporting staff whose babies are born premature or poorly. They are leading the way alongside other London employers, such as the Mayor Sadiq Khan and Sony Music UK. We hope that other London hospitals follow in their example too. Visiting a baby in neonatal intensive care is an uncertain and traumatic time for families and it is right that parents are given the additional paid leave they need to fully recover and bond with their baby once at home.”

1 in 8 babies born in the UK require admission to a neonatal unit, with those born premature expected to remain in hospital the longest.

Ben Morrin, director of workforce at UCLH, said: “Having a baby born early can mean waiting weeks before you bring your baby home from hospital and added stress and emotional worry, juggling work and family commitments. Mums and dads across UCLH will now have extra time and help after any premature birth.

“That time should never have to be taken as normal maternity or paternity leave. We hope that by introducing extended leave we will give parents precious time to bond when any affected family is back home together.”

The changes, agreed by UCLH senior directors, are in line with The Smallest Things ‘Employer with Heart’ charter and will mean:

  • Where an employee’s baby is born prematurely (before the 37th week), the employee will be entitled to extend maternity, paternity or same sex partners leave by the number of days the baby was born prior to the due date at full pay.
  • Where an employee’s baby is born prematurely as described above and has ongoing medical needs (for example, requiring regular hospital appointments and check-ups), UCLH will follow best practice guidance, consider formal and informal flexible working patterns and will consider offering additional paid or unpaid leave.
  • Employees/parents returning to work following the birth of a premature baby will be referred to Occupational Health by their line manager for support to meet their unique needs and in acknowledgement of the traumatic birth. This support will include the offer of counselling services.

 

More than 250,000 people have signed a change.org petition calling upon the UK Government to extend parental leave for families affected by premature birth.

The Smallest Things is a premature baby charity, established in 2014, to support the needs of families and babies beyond the neonatal unit. If you would like further information about The Smallest Things Employer with Heart Charter, or would like to ask your organisation to sign up too, please get in touch at smallestthings@yahoo.com

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