The first local authority in Scotland to provide additional support to staff whose babies need hospital care after a premature birth has been recognised by a national charity. South Ayrshire Council, which has extended paid parental leave for staff whose babies are born prematurely, has been awarded with the 'Employer with Heart' by premature baby charity The Smallest Things.
Changes to the Council's Special Leave Policy entitle female employees to seven days paid leave for every week a baby is born prematurely and in need of hospital care. The additional time will be added on to the end of maternity leave, allowing mums to enjoy the quality time with their children often denied to them early on, due to the baby's complex medical needs. Dads, partners and caregivers of premature babies at South Ayrshire Council are now entitled to two weeks' paid additional special leave, following the birth of the baby.
Welcoming the news, Smallest Things Founder, Catriona Ogilvy, said, "We're delighted that South Ayrshire Council has taken these steps to support staff whose babies are born prematurely and are pleased to award them our Employer with Heart. 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, take care of them at home for longer and recover from the trauma themselves. We hope that councils across Scotland will follow in South Ayrshire's footsteps."
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 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 it the most."