“It is time the law recognised the special needs of premature babies’ parents by extending their leave so they can give their vulnerable, tiny babies all the love and care they need and deserve” – Steve Reed MP’s speech to the House of Commons
Croydon North MP Steve Reed has successfully seen his bill to give parents of premature babies extended maternity leave pass its first hurdle in the House of Commons.
He told the Commons of the case of a mother whose baby was born three months prematurely – and all that time was taken out of her statutory maternity leave.
He also told fellow MPs of another mum lost her job because she had to deal with her premature child’s frequent illnesses – and of a dad who had to go back to work the day after his baby was born three months too soon and was fighting for her life in an incubator.
Mr Reed’s Maternity and Paternity Leave (Premature Birth) Bill, if successful, would amend Part 8 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to make provision about maternity and paternity leave for parents of babies born prematurely.
“Having a premature baby is one of the most traumatic experiences that any parent can go through. “Instead of bringing home the healthy baby they had longed for, their tiny baby is put inside an incubator, fighting for its life, surrounded by tubes, wires and bleeping monitors” he told the House..
“Instead of holding their baby close, these parents can only watch as their baby struggles to breathe, dependent on life support and intensive care. “This can go on for weeks and months before a baby is well enough to go home.
“The stress, anxiety and worry lead two in every five premature mums to suffer mental ill health. “Parents fall into debt from the unplanned expense of daily journeys to hospital, overnight accommodation or eating in expensive hospital cafes.
“One mum told me her baby spent three months in intensive care, and that time was all taken out of her statutory maternity leave.
“So her baby suffers twice: first, from the serious health complications of being born too soon and, secondly, from having less time at home with mum and dad—vital bonding time that can affect a child’s development for many years to come.
“I spoke to another mum who told me that once she had gone back to work, her employer would not give her the extra time off she needed to deal with her premature child’s frequent illnesses.
“She lost her job, and her family lost that vital extra income.
“I spoke to a dad who had to go back to work the day after his baby was born three months too soon and was fighting for her life in an incubator.
“Most people would agree that his family needed him more at that time than his employer did, but the law did not give him the support he needed to be there with his family.
“We should give the parents of premature babies all the support they need to cope at one of the most traumatic times they will ever experience.
He paid tribute in the House to “Croydon mum and tireless campaigner” Catriona Ogilvy, who started campaigning on the issue after her two boys were born prematurely.
“Over 100,000 people have already signed her online petition. “I should also like to recognise the outstanding work of the charity Bliss, which campaigns for the rights of premature babies and their families.
“It is time the law recognised the special needs of premature babies’ parents by extending their leave so that they can give their vulnerable, tiny babies all the love and care they need and deserve.
“This measure commands growing support in the country, it is the right thing to do, and it deserves the support of this House.
Question put and agreed to. Ordered: That Mr Steve Reed, Norman Lamb (Lib Dem, North Norfolk), Heidi Allen (Con, South Cambridgeshire), Chris Philp (Con, Croydon South), Wes Streeting (Lab, Ilford North), Dan Jarvis (Lab, Barnsley Central), Stella Creasy (Lab, Walthamstow), Gareth Thomas (Lab, Harrow West), Jenny Chapman (Lab, Darlington), Lyn Brown (Lab, West Ham), Heidi Alexander (Lab, Lewisham East) and Lisa Nandy (Lab, Wigan) present the Bill.
Mr Steve Reed accordingly presented the Bill. Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 16 December, and to be printed (Bill 81).