MP backs paternity leave extension proposals

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Proposals for parents of premature babies to be given extra leave will be backed by MP Lisa Nandy this week.

Supporters say the changes will add extra flexibility to paternity leave regulations, taking into account the pressures arising from premature births for the first time.

Born too soon, the reality of life in neonatal care is very different from what a mother would usually expect from the early days of maternity leave

A line from the petition

The amendments to the Employment Rights Act will be discussed in the House of Commons later on Wednesday.

Ms Nandy told the Evening Post the proposed changes will recognise the “strains” placed on parents.

The MP said: “Many parents who have a premature baby are forced to choose between going back to work or leaving their job to care for their child.

“There is cross-party support for these proposals and I’m hopeful that this campaign will continue to attract further backing.” The Maternity and Paternity Leave (Premature Birth) Bill will be presented as a Ten Minute Rule Motion in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

A petition supporting the campaign has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

Ms Nandy added: “Giving birth early can be an incredibly stressful experience and we need a change in the laws around maternity leave to recognise the emotional and financial strains of a premature birth.”

The Wigan MP said her support of the Bill stems from NHS figures which state more than 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year.

Parents face £2,000 in extra costs - including more travel to and from hospital and child-care costs for siblings.

Research also suggests a higher proportion of mothers suffer postnatal depression after premature births; four in 10 compared with one in 10 for mothers of full term babies.

Meanwhile, one third of neo-natal units have no psychological support, meaning thousands of parents are left to cope on their own.

The petition, available on the website www.change.org, details the experience of Catriona Ogilvy, who gave birth to her son 10 weeks early.

It reads: “Born too soon, the reality of life in neonatal care is very different from what a mother would usually expect from the early days of maternity leave.

“Lines, monitors, life support machines and recovery from what is often a traumatic birth.

“As a mother I needed time to bond with my tiny baby, time to recover from our traumatic journey.

“Extending statutory maternity leave and pay would give mothers the emotional and financial support needed at a time of great stress and trauma.”