Workers at Belfast Council who have had premature babies may be granted extended leave under the new plans.
Belfast councillors voted for amending the maternity leave provisions for staff.
Mothers of premature babies who have been fully approved will not begin maternity leave until after the baby’s due date.
This plan would allow for any leave that is required after the delivery date to be considered compassionate leave. It will not affect an employee of the council’s right at full parental leave.
The legal representative of the council told the chamber that they had been asked to approve the motion in principle pending the completion of a report from council officers.
Current UK law gives all eligible employees 52 weeks of maternity leave. However, pay and maternity leave are not extended to any baby born before the due date.
Employees may have the option of taking annual or unpaid vacations.
One baby in thirteen babies who were born prematurely in 2018 needed specialist care in a Northern Ireland neonatal unit.
This decision was taken by the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee of Belfast City Council.
Gareth Spratt (DUP councillor), said that the motion was a matter close to his heart.
His twin daughters were prematurely born.
He stated that “my wife’s waters burst quite unexpectedly while on a trip at the theatre after a gestation period of only 23 weeks, five days.”
“Our worst fears seemed unavoidable. The health service intervened and our girls were born at 27 weeks and one days gestation.
“Desperately sick, we were encouraged to have our girls baptized, because their condition was not survivable.”
The girls were admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital’s neonatal intensive hospital unit, and the Ulster Hospital.
“Seventy three days in hospital and 73 day from my wife’s maternity leaves – that’s the 73-days from your chance bond as family and do all of the things that new family do,” he said.
It’s difficult, there’s very few contact and it’s obvious that there is a strict hygiene policy. He said that it was difficult due to frequent medical interventions.
He claimed that the council would benefit if it was a supportive employer of staff.
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