Southwark Council has launched premature baby leave for its 4,500 employees, to help support working parents and give prospective parents peace of mind.
The premature baby leave, which came into effect from 1 September 2018, enables parents of babies born at or before 37 weeks to receive an extra week of leave and pay for every week their premature baby spends in hospital before their due date.
The new leave supports Southwark Council’s commitment to the Employers with Heart charter, which is from premature babies support charity The Smallest Things.
Cllr Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for housing management and modernisation at Southwark Council, 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 this policy will give all prospective parents piece of mind that we are here to support them when they need it most.”
The premature baby leave forms part of the Council’s wider workforce strategy and equality plan; this aims to modernise Southwark Council’s workforce and support employees who are working parents. Within the equality plan in particular, there is a family leave workstream that has been designed to review and reconsider the benefits available to aid working parents. The premature baby leave is part of this work.
Southwark Council has aligned its new leave arrangement to one of its organisational values: to treat everyone as a valued member of the Council’s own family, and help employees to realise their own potential in order to create and support great teams.
The premature baby leave was communicated to employees using the staff intranet and benefits pages, employee Yammer accounts and through a management cascade into departmental team meetings.
The new leave will run alongside the Council’s existing family-friendly benefits. These include childcare vouchers, childcare loans that enable birth and adoptive parents to apply for an interest free loan of up to £1,000 to meet immediate childcare costs, flexible working arrangements, extended employment breaks, a health cash plan which can be extended to cover families, maternity and paternity leave provisions, including time off for appointments, and an employee assistance programme (EAP).
Catriona Ogilvy, founder at The Smallest Things, added: “We are delighted that Southwark Council has signed up to our Employers with 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.”