Under the mayor’s proposals, parents working at City Hall will be entitled to paid leave if their baby is born prematurely, or is in need of neonatal care in hospital.
Every year more than 95,000 babies are cared for in neonatal units in the UK because they have either been born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), or born at full term (after 37 weeks) but are sick.
The mayor’s plans will mean that if the parent has given birth to their baby before 37 weeks they will be entitled to a day’s premature baby leave and pay for every day between the date their baby was born and the due date. A parent entitled to paternity leave will be eligible for an additional two weeks of paid leave, or a day’s premature baby leave and pay for every day their baby spends in hospital up until the due date, whichever is greater.
In addition, both parents of babies born at 37 weeks or after who require neonatal care during their first 28 days of life will be granted additional leave and pay for every day their baby spends in neonatal care during that time.
When returning to work new parents will also be offered additional support, including formal and informal flexible working patterns and additional paid or unpaid leave if necessary.
To encourage other employers to adopt a similar approach, the mayor’s Good Work Standard will include premature baby leave and neonatal baby leave as part of its best practice guidance. Additionally, City Hall has said it will work with partners and campaigners such as Maternity Action and The Smallest Things to encourage other employers to develop similar policies.
Commenting on the plans, Sadiq Khan said: “Becoming a parent should be an exciting time, but unfortunately for some parents it can also be a difficult and emotional experience. It is only right that employers give new parents the time and support they need to adjust to this momentous change in their lives and to support their return to work.”
He added that employers should do all they can to support parents in the workplace: "We should do everything we can to give hardworking and talented parents the support they need to thrive in the workplace, and the support children need to get the best start in life.”
Extra time off for parents of premature babies lends them crucial support at a traumatic time, added Catriona Ogilvy, founder and trustee of The Smallest Things.
“Visiting a premature baby on a neonatal intensive care unit is a traumatic distressing time for parents without the added worry of work and pay," she said. "It certainly shouldn’t count as parental leave. The mayor’s new policy gives parents precious time to bond with their fragile babies outside of the hospital environment and take care of them at home for longer. We are delighted that Sadiq is joining The Smallest Things in encouraging all employers to provide extended leave to parents of premature babies.”
The move by City Hall follows Waltham Forest Council's announcement earlier this year that it believed it had become the first UK local authority to introduce extended leave for parents of premature babies.