South Ayrshire Council has been awarded ‘The Employer with Heart’ for its support to staff whose premature babies need extra hospital care.
The council was the first local authority in Scotland to give extended paid parental leave for staff whose babies are born prematurely and the national premature baby charity The Smallest Things has awarded it the Employer with Heart.
Changes to the council’s special leave policy entitle female employees to seven days paid leave for every week a baby is born prematurely, the time added on to the end of maternity leave. Dads and partners are entitled to two weeks’ paid additional special leave, following the birth of the baby.
Smallest Things founder, Catriona Ogilvy, said; “Visiting a fragile baby in a neonatal unit for weeks, sometimes months, is terrifying and shouldn’t be counted as maternity or paternity leave. This extra time will give parents the chance to bond with their babies and take care of them at home for longer. We hope councils across Scotland will follow South Ayrshire.”
A 250,000 signature petition calls on the UK Government to extend leave for parents of premature babies.
Councillor Peter Henderson, South Ayrshire Council’s portfolio holder for resources and performance said, “We’re proud to have been recognised by The Smallest Things for our positive work to support staff to deal with an extremely testing times following the birth of a child.
“The arrival of a premature baby comes as a major shock for families and when you’re dealing with unwanted complications which lead to health issues, depression, and higher travelling costs, the rising stress levels can quickly become overwhelming.
“Recognising this as a situation which needed to be addressed was our first step and by becoming the first council in Scotland to make a change we’re leading by example. I’d call on other organisations to consider making a similar change and to support their staff at a time when they need it the most.”