Southwark Council will now give employees who are parents of premature babies extra leave and pay, to help support them while their babies are still in hospital.
The new policy, which came in effect on September 1, means parents whose babies are born at or before 37 weeks will be entitled to receive an extra week’s premature baby leave and premature baby pay for every week their child spends in hospital before their due date.
It also makes the council the latest employer in the UK to join the ‘Employer with a Heart Charter’, set up by charity The Smallest Things, which campaigns to raise awareness and support for premature babies and their families.
The Smallest Things founder, Catriona Ogilvy, said: “We are delighted that Southwark Council has signed up to our Employer with a Heart charter and are now offering additional paid parental leave for staff whose babies are born premature.
“Mothers wait days, if not weeks, to hold their babies for the first time, lose precious time to bond and experience higher levels of mental health difficulties following the trauma of neonatal intensive care.
“This extra time will give parents the chance to bond with their babies at home and the time they need to recover from the trauma themselves.”
Councillor Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for housing management and modernisation, said: “Becoming a parent can be a wonderful but also incredibly stressful time and for the parents of premature babies this stress can be multiplied manifold.
“I am incredibly proud that we are among the first employers in the UK to offer this extra support to our staff.
“I hope that this policy will give all prospective parents peace of mind that we are here to support them when they need it most.
“I also want to commend Catriona Ogilvy for the work that she has done to raise this important issue.