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Our response to Government pledge to support working mothers of premature babies

27 March 2017
A mother with her baby

Margot James MP has today written of her intention to develop new guidelines for employers on how to better support mothers of premature babies during their maternity leave, and to ensure measures available to support parents are more clearly spelled out, with the Government's Mother's Day pledge.

While Bliss welcomes this recognition of the needs of parents of premature babies, as highlighted in our It’s not a game report, we believe the government should still go further to support those parents who we know face extra financial and travel pressures when their babies are in hospital1 – as well as the loss of time spent at home with their baby.

Most parents are aware of their statutory rights around maternity and parental leave, and whilst the amount of time off work allowed under existing legislation in the UK is generous compared to other countries, the extra costs that families of premature or sick babies can face are not met by standard maternity pay.

Caroline Lee-Davey, CEO of Bliss, says: "At Bliss we have previously championed the need for developing employer guidelines around handling requests for leave and flexibility from parents of premature and sick babies, specifically as part of wider measures that also guarantee support is available to those parents at what can often be an incredibly difficult time.

"While we welcome the government’s recognition that mums of babies born premature 'deserve respect and support from everyone', we still believe that it is only through legislation these guarantees could be offered. In the meantime, we are keen to work with the government on developing these new guidelines for employers, and will continue to campaign for changes to maternity leave legislation that better supports parents of premature and sick babies."

Welcoming the announcement, Founder and Chair of The Smallest Things, Catriona Ogilvy said;

"This is wonderful news, and recognises the overwhelming support The Smallest Things campaign has received. This Mother's Day weekend 7,000 mothers will have visited their baby in neonatal care, uncertain for the future. This guidance and recognition from the government as part their 'Mothers Day Pledge' of what is a highly stressful and difficult time will offer hope and reassurance to thousands of families beginning their journey through neonatal care each year.

"The impact on families of a baby being born prematurely lasts for many, many years and The Smallest Things will keep on working to support and raise awareness of these needs."

The full article can be read on mumsnet.com.

ENDS

  1. Key findings from Bliss' It's not a game report include:
    • Parents of a baby admitted to neonatal care face extra costs amounting to £2,256 during their baby’s stay in hospital, averaging £282 per week.
    • Costs such as paying for food and drinks averaged £53 a week, while parents faced travel costs including petrol and parking averaging over £100 per week
    • Three quarters of parents reported that their household finances were worsened, while one in five couldn’t afford to pay bills such as their rent or mortgage.
    • The average stay in neonatal care was eight weeks. However, one in four babies and families faced 12 or more weeks in hospital and five percent faced a stay of over 20 weeks.
    • Over half of mums felt their maternity leave was not long enough while many dads were forced back to work or had to take unpaid leave.
    • Alongside the financial burden is the cost to parent’s health, with almost two thirds of parents reporting that their mental health had worsened as a result of the extra pressure
    • Welsh and Scottish hospitals offer free parking. In England 87 per cent of hospitals provide free parking for the parents of premature or sick babies. However, two thirds of parents reported that they paid for parking, as they were not told they could access it for free or at a reduced rate.
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