Parents could be allowed to take up to 12 additional weeks of paid leave in the event of premature births. This is the subject of a law currently making its way through parliament.
What would this mean after premature births?
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill had a second reading this week. It would mean that dads and mums would be able to add to their existing maternity and paternity leave entitlements with one week’s extra paid leave for every week their baby is in neonatal care.
With one in seven UK newborns spending time in a specialised unit, the new law has support from a range of parliamentarians across the party divides.
What counts as a premature birth?
The NHS defines a premature birth as one that takes place before the 37th week of pregnancy. Children born before this time often need additional help in hospital before they can go home. They are often smaller and have trouble putting on weight and regulating their own temperature. In some cases, they struggle to eat by mouth and even breathe of their own accord.
It is possible for children born at 24 weeks to survive and flourish, but they often need care in the neonatal unit. This can take a toll on parents. Having to travel between home and the neonatal unit after a premature birth can be a stressful experience. The law seeks to take the pressure off parents in terms of both finances and time.
A dad’s account
A dad who spoke to Dadsnet about his experience of premature births in 2017 could have benefited from the new law. He said at the time “while it was a nightmare for me to travel up and down to see them every day, I knew they were in the best place, I can’t speak highly of the staff that looked after my wife and out little girl they were a god send.”
We’ll keep you updated on the progress of this bill, proposed by SNP MP Stuart McDonald.