Post-Premature Birth Maternity Extension

News that the Government in the Republic of Ireland will extend maternity benefit for mothers of premature babies has been widely welcomed. This means benefit will now be paid by the state for the time between the actual birth and when the leave would have started. It is estimated that 4500 mothers will benefit annually from the initiative which is set to replace current 26 weeks with additional leave added to the end of the timeline. The new law became effective on 1 October 2017.

According to TinyLife, Northern Ireland’s premature baby charity, six premature babies are born too soon every day in Northern Ireland, some weighing as little as 1lb.

Welcoming the development today [4 October], TinyLife Chief Executive Officer, Alison McNulty said, “This is wonderful news, a real breakthrough for the long-fought right to factor in much needed additional time and monetary support for families of premature babies. Very few countries in the world recognise the huge demands placed on families with premature babies. This decision will markedly affect maternity rights not just in the UK but globally and provide essential benchmarking opportunities.”

Adding, “Two years ago, our own research in partnership with UK premature birth organisation Bliss, showed how additional leave during maternity and a flexible approach to post-maternity working hours, has the potential to deliver positive impact on post-natal mental and physical health of both mother and child, with complementary benefits such as infant bonding and attachment.”

 “However, we still have a long way to go to address these issues in Northern Ireland. We will continue to lobby Westminster and local MLAs to make extended maternity leave a reality in Northern Ireland. The longer term economic benefits of better practice and a robust strategy adopted by Government will go a long way towards the realisation of this goal in Northern Ireland.”

Adding, “TinyLife urges employers to be mindful that a premature birth is one of the most stressful events that a new parent can face and advises putting steps in place to give support, while striking the balance between keeping in touch and respecting privacy.