Nationwide supports families with extended parental leave for premature births

Nationwide Building Society has become the first high street financial services provider to sign up to our Smallest Things Employers with Heart charter, following a major change to their premature birth policy as they continue their commitment to providing family-friendly employment policies to all employees.

While families look forward to spending time together this summer, parents of premature babies face agonising waits beside incubator units and many fathers and partners have to return to work, separated from their baby who remains in neonatal intensive care.

Signing up to The Smallest Things Employer with Heart Charter, Nationwide is supporting their staff to be with their babies when they most need them.

Nationwide is offering extended maternity leave to employees when their baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy

The policy provides second parent 4-weeks hospital leave to support their partner and family

Policy designed in consultation with Nationwide Group Staff Union (NGSU) and employees who’ve had children prematurely and is available now to all employees who need it

An initiative led by the NGSU, the new policy will see extra support given to employees who have babies before the 37th week of pregnancy. It means that employees can focus entirely on their family, during a difficult time, without the worry of having to return to work too soon.

Announcing the news Faye Whitmarsh, Nationwide’s Head of Culture & Engagement said: “Becoming a parent is an exciting time, but we know it doesn’t always go to plan. Our premature birth policy provides greater support for families when they need it most and we’re delighted to be recognised as an ‘Employer with Heart’ by a wonderful charity. We’re proud of the fact this policy was designed in partnership with the NGSU and Nationwide employees who recently experienced a premature birth. We hope that other employers will review and update their premature birth policies, given the extra support it can provide families.”

Signing the Employers with Heart Charter demonstrates Nationwide’s continued commitment to a family-friendly working environment and sits alongside other family-focused policies such as; family support leave and bereavement leave.

Just days after the Prime Minister announced government plans to consult on the introduction of neonatal parental leave, giving families one additional week of paid leave for every week their baby spends in hospital, Nationwide is leading the way, providing support for parents like Laura Rowe, mum to twins and Nationwide employee:

“My twins spent their first 103 days in hospital having gone into labour three and half months early. I took three months of unpaid leave from work to have more time at home. I’m delighted to have helped design Nationwide’s new premature birth policy. It is such an emotional time but being able to focus entirely on your family and not worry about going back to work early will be a massive relief to families going through this in future.”

Welcoming the news, Catriona Ogilvy, founder and trustee of The Smallest Things, said: “We are delighted that Nationwide has created a policy that recognises and supports families of premature babies and to award them our ‘Employer with Heart’ accreditation. The policy will provide parents with precious extra time to bond with their babies and be at home for longer with them, especially important during a potentially traumatic and distressing time. As the government announces its consultation plans on extending parental leave, we urge them to look to Nationwide as a leading example of compassionate policy change for mums, dads and partners going through terrifying times.”

The Smallest Things

David Linden MP, Member of Parliament for Glasgow East, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sick and Premature Babies, said: “Hats off to Nationwide for leading the way and signing up to this amazing scheme. Nationwide has now laid down the gauntlet to other financial service providers and I hope they will quickly follow suit. The birth of a premature or sick baby is an incredibly distressing time and it’s important that all employers recognise this and give their staff the support they need – just as Nationwide has done.”

Thousands back the campaign

The Smallest Things premature baby charity has campaigned for extended parental leave for mums and dads following premature birth since 2015. More than 340, 000 people have now signed the petition calling on government to extend paid parental leave for parents following premature birth and the charity was instrumental in the government announcing their 2017 Mothers Day pledge to introduce new ACAS Guidelines on how employers could best support staff whose babies are admitted to neonatal care.

Employers with Heart

The guidelines did not go far enough though and in February 2018 The Smallest Things launched the Employer with Heart charter, asking business not to wait for government to make this change, but to extend leave now for their staff whose babies are born premature.

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