MP welcomes plans to boost support for parents of premature babies

SNP MP David Linden
SNP MP David Linden
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An MP whose two children were born prematurely has welcomed the announcement of plans to increase family leave for parents of sick and premature babies.

David Linden, the SNP MP for Glasgow East, has campaigned for more flexible leave for parents whose children and born prematurely, but has criticised the government over a lack of progress.

Now, in one of her final acts as Prime Minister, Theresa May has now launched a consultation on increasing leave when babies are premature, as well as equalising leave allowances so that all fathers can take more time off with their children.

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“For so many of us who have been through the distress of having children born premature or sick, this has been a long and hard fought campaign,” said Mr Linden, who also posted on social media: "Thank you, Prime Minister".

“When I stood in the hospital last year watching my prematurely born daughter struggling for breath, I knew I had to use my position as an MP to influence change and secure better employment rights for other parents.”

The MP added: “It is vital that this step is meaningfully followed through, and whoever takes over in Downing Street next week must secure and strengthen those rights by introducing legislation and not rolling back.

“Both Tory leadership candidates must come out and make that unequivocally clear."

The government consultation asks questions about whether statutory paternity leave for fathers and same-sex partners should be changed.

It also calls for suggestions on ways in which the shared parental leave policy introduced in 2015 could be improved.

The UK is below average among leading economies in the OECD group of countries in terms of length of dedicated paternity leave offered, though it is highest on length of maternity leave, demonstrating the size of the current discrepancy.

Announcing the move, Mrs May said: "The experience of parenting has changed almost beyond recognition over the past 40 years, with fathers wanting to share caring responsibilities more equally from the outset.

"In introducing shared parental leave, we have taken significant steps to support parents to do this, but all too often it is still mothers, not fathers, who shoulder the burden of childcare.

"It is clear that we need to do more and that's why today we have launched a consultation calling for views on how we can improve the current system."

Mrs May said the Government also wanted to help parents cope with the "unimaginable stress" of a premature or sick baby requiring special care.

In the UK, an estimated 100,000 babies are admitted to neonatal care every year following their birth.

For fathers and partners, that means typically their whole two weeks of paternity leave is spent with the mother and baby in hospital.

Under the new proposals, parents would receive one week of neonatal leave and pay for every week their baby is in hospital.

READ MORE: Paternity rights: Give working dads 12 weeks parental leave and help close gender pay gap
This would be available to mothers, fathers and partners.

Mrs May said: "Parents have more than enough on their plates without worrying about their parental leave running out and having to return to work before their precious newborn comes home.

"That's not fair and it's not right. So we're also proposing a new neonatal leave and pay entitlement to make this time a bit easier for parents whose babies need to spend a prolonged period in neonatal care."