A MUM whose premature baby was born weighing just 2lb 12 oz has welcomed Leeds City Council's decision to change its policy on maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature babies.
Leeds City Council welfare rights worker Harriet Chaplin, 28, of Bramley, spent the majority of her six month's maternity leave visiting her premature baby daughter Amaiya Robson in hospital or caring for her at home after she was born nine weeks prematurely.
Miss Chaplin wanted to spend more time on maternity leave at home bonding with her daughter, who is now nine-months-old.
Leeds City Council agreed to give Ms Chaplin an extra nine-weeks maternity leave on full pay in line with a campaign being run by by premature baby charity The Smallest Things.
The Smallest Things launched its 'Employer With Heart' campaign last February and asked employers to extend paid maternity leave from a baby's due date to when it was born.
The campaign also asked employers for at least an additional two weeks paid leave for dads and partners.
Now Leeds City Council is changing its policy on maternity and paternity leave.
Coun James Lewis, Leeds City Council deputy leader and executive member for resources and sustainability, said: “At Leeds City Council we have recognised that parental leave for parents of premature babies is an important issue.
"As a result we are reflecting the recommendations of The Smallest Things charity’s ‘Employer with Heart Campaign’ in our current update of maternity and paternity policy.”
Welcoming the council's policy change, Miss Chaplin said: "It is really important. It is going to help a lot of people.
"It is brilliant, I want it for everyone. I have got friends that were in hospital at the same time whose babies are still poorly now and they are having to go back to work or leave their jobs because they are not getting any extra support."
Miss Chaplin was suffering from high blood pressure when she was around 25-weeks pregnant and tests revealed she was suffering from pre-eclampsia.
She was admitted to Leeds General Infirmary at 30-weeks pregnant on July 19 2018.
Amaiya was born on at 31-weeks on July 24 by emergency caesarean section, which was carried out as heart rate was slowing down.
Amaiya spent time in intensive care and the high dependency unit and was in hospital for a total of five weeks
Harriet's mother Tracey Chaplin raises her daughter's case with Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, who is is campaigning for the Government to provide extra support so mothers of premature babies can have more paid maternity longer at home bonding with their babies.
Ms Reeves spoke to Leeds City Council and quoted Harriett Chaplin as an example during a question on the issue to Teresa May during Prime Minister's Questions in February.
Labour MP Ms Reeves wants the Government to take urgent action and extend maternity leave for parents of premature babies..
The Government held a public consultation earlier this year when parents were asked what they believed needed to change in relation to statutory leave for parents of premature babies.
The findings from the public consultation have not yet been published
Ms Reeves said: "The Government must stop dragging its feet when it comes to extending statutory leave for the parents of premature babies.
"We need urgent answers from ministers about how they plan to respond to the recent consultation exercise.
"We have already seen action from the Mayor of London and Leeds City Council who have given extra leave to employees whose babies are born prematurely.
" The Government must now act and make this crucial change which will do so much to help thousands of families like Harriet’s.
"No parent should have to endure the extra worry of trying to care for a premature baby while they are already anxious about taking time off from their job."
Ms Reeves said around 60,000 babies - one in every 13 is born prematurely before 37 weeks of pregnancy - every year in the UK.
Catriona Ogilvy, founder of The Smallest Things charity, said: "We are delighted that Leeds City Council have adopted our Employer with Heart Charter recommendations, offering extended leave for staff whose babies are born premature.
"Mothers wait days, if not weeks, to hold their babies for the first time and lose out on precious time to bond.
"This extra time will give parents the chance to bond with their babies at home, as well as the time they need to recover from the trauma themselves."
Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive of premature and sick baby charity Bliss, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Rachel Reeves for her continued campaigning on the issue of extended parental leave for parents of babies born premature or sick.
“Evidence is clear that babies do best when their parents are as involved as possible in their care on the neonatal unit, but Bliss’ research has shown that there are considerable costs associated with having a premature or sick baby with an average of an extra £2,256 spent by parents whilst their baby is in hospital.
"This means that half of all parents we surveyed in our research would have liked to take more parental leave but couldn’t afford to take any longer off work.
"By extending paid leave, parents of premature and sick babies will be able to spend as much time as possible with their baby without the additional burden of financial pressure.
“While we welcome the support from employers such as Leeds Council who are choosing to make special provisions for parents whose babies have spent their first days of life in neonatal care, Bliss is calling on the Government to give all dads and mums an extra paid week off work for every week their baby is in neonatal care to ensure the best outcomes for babies, families and employers."