• Medway Foundation Trust first to sign up
  • Mums will get normal pay until planned maternity leave
  • Other trusts could follow

A trust has became the first in England to sign up to a pledge to support parents of premature babies with extra time off work.

Medway Foundation Trust will offer mums of premature babies their normal pay until their maternity pay commences and will also offer extra time off at full pay for dads.

The trust has signed up to the “Employer with Heart” charter, run by charity The Smallest Things, which campaigns for better support for the families of premature babies.

Medway’s deputy chief executive James Devine said around 160 of the trust’s staff gave birth each year and around 20 of those would be likely to have premature babies.

Some of those would arrive after the mum to be had started her maternity leave but others could be weeks or even months before she planned to take maternity leave – meaning there would be a small cost to the trust in offering them extra leave.

“We have seen an overwhelming response to this from our own staff and externally,” he said. “We understand that it can be an extremely difficult and worrying time for those who experience premature labour and the last thing we want is for our hardworking staff to feel they have to worry about work or whether they can afford to take time off to be with their baby.”

Although the motivation was simply to support staff, he said “it could help recruitment and retention when employers are seen as valuing staff through difficult circumstances”. The trust had already been contacted by several London trusts interested in the scheme, he added.

Medway has a level three special baby care unit and cares for some of the smallest babies from across Kent – something Mr Devine suggested meant support for families of premature babies resonated with the trust’s staff.