More than 8,200 babies are born each year at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, making it one of the busiest single site maternity units in the UK. Raffaela Goodby, chief people officer at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Trust, explains: “We wanted to ensure that our staff felt as supported as the families they care for so, in July 2021, we launched a policy for employees who experience baby loss or pre-term birth.”
Under the policy, mothers who experience baby loss can take up to 10 days’ paid leave, with partners receiving up to five days’ paid leave. For employees who have a premature baby, the Trust has adopted The Smallest Things’ Employer with Heart charter, extending maternity leave with additional paid leave. “If an employee was due to go on maternity leave at 38 weeks and the baby is born at 30 weeks, we will give them an additional eight weeks paid leave,” explains Goodby. “This gives them time to bring their baby home and bond with them.”
Partners are also recognised under the pre-term policy, receiving up to two weeks paid leave to enable them to support the mother and the rest of the family while their baby is in neonatal care.
As well as the policy, the trust also offers emotional and practical support through a range of tools such as an employee assistance programme, the NHS’s mental health and wellbeing hubs and through occupational health. “We also offer more flexibility once parents return to work,” adds Goodby. “Pre-term babies often need more medical appointments so we make sure this is possible.”
The policy has been well-received by employees. Of the 6,000 people that work there, 82% are female, with many working across the maternity services. “Our staff tell us the policy makes them better employees,” Goodby adds. “A colleague who used the pre-term leave is a neonatal nurse herself. She told me it’s helped her understand what new parents are going through. Our staff will often talk to new mums with pre-term babies about asking their employer for additional leave too.”
The value the policy brings to employees, but also the trust and its patients, means that Goodby now works with other NHS trusts to help them introduce similar policies for staff. “We’ve also worked closely with the trade unions,” she adds. “They do a fantastic job at promoting it to employees.”