Premature baby charity, ‘The Smallest Things’ has called on employers to sign up to their Charter to become an ‘Employer with Heart’ at an event to mark World Prematurity Day at City Hall in London.
They were joined by BBC Radio 5 Live presenter, Rachel Burden, who gave birth to baby son Henry at 31 weeks, weighing just three pounds.
Commenting in a report published by the charity, Rachel said,
No parent should be left feeling alone at this tender time. Having a premature baby can be terrifying, bewildering and joyful…We were lucky Henry was not too tiny and in good shape…and I had amazing support from family and friends who all stepped up without being asked and helped us on our way.
World Prematurity Day is part of a global movement to raise awareness of the impact of premature birth on babies and their families.
At the event, which was sponsored by Sony Music UK, London Mayor Sadiq Khan signed up to the charter and asked employers across London to do the same. Others signing up on the night included the London Energy Company, Croydon University Hospital and the Home Office’s Disclosure and Barring Service.
Every year 37,000 babies in the UK are born premature and parents are told that they are likely to remain in hospital until their due date. For mums, that means starting their maternity leave early and having a lot less time with their baby when they are allowed to bring them home. At the same time, they have to cope with the extra stress, worry and hospital appointments that come with having a premature baby.
Catriona Ogilvy, founder of ‘The Smallest Things’ believes that extending paid maternity leave by the number of days a baby was born prior to their due date would give mothers the time required to recover from the trauma of neonatal intensive care. Mums also need time to bond with their baby and time for their baby to grow and develop before they return to work.
The charter also calls for dads to receive at least two weeks’ paid compassionate leave on the birth of their premature baby and more support for parents on returning to work. The charity suggests following ACAS best practice guidance, considering formal and informal flexible working patterns and offering additional paid or unpaid leave.
Catriona, who describes ‘The Smallest Things’ as a tiny charity with a big voice, said:
With employers supporting our initiative it is heartwarming to know that step by step we are making a difference in the lives of some parents right now.
We will continue to push Government to change the law so that all parents of premature babies can spend these precious moments with their little ones and have the time they need to recover from the trauma of neonatal intensive care without the added workplace worries.
Photo: The Smallest Things