A West Midlands health care Trust has become the first in the region to offer extra time off to parents whose babies are born prematurely.
Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust has pledged to sign up to The Smallest Things ‘Employer with Heart’ Charter – which means that mums and dads will receive full pay until the point that their maternity or paternity leave was due to start.
Current NHS terms and conditions afford new mums whose baby has been born prematurely to split their maternity leave, allowing them to take two weeks leave immediately after childbirth, and the rest following their baby’s discharge from hospital.
One in eight babies are born prematurely and subsequently parents have a reduced time to bond with their baby as maternity or paternity leave starts from the date of birth. Some newborns are kept in hospital for several weeks or more which will mean that parents find themselves having to go back to work without having spent much time at home with their new baby.
Paula Gardner, Chief Nurse, said: “We are pleased to become the first Trust in the West Midlands to offer this commitment to parents.
“Our staff are dedicated to their jobs and work hard to ensure their patients receive high quality care, so we believe that we should return that sentiment by looking after them when they need our help in their personal lives.
“By signing up to this charter, it means that we will be able to help new mums and dads who are facing a difficult and worrying time after experiencing premature labour.”
Catriona Ogilvy, founder and chair of The Smallest Things charity, says “We’re delighted that Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust has recognised the unique needs of families of premature babies and is signing up to our Employer with Heart charter.
“Giving birth prematurely and spending time on a neonatal unit for weeks, sometimes months, is terrifying and traumatic for parents. The last thing they should be worrying about is work and whether they can afford to spend time at the incubator or cot of their fragile baby. We know that the journey often doesn’t end when a premature baby is allowed to go home either. This extra time will go some way to supporting parents’ mental health, the baby’s medical needs and ultimately aid a smoother transition back to work when the time comes.”