Financial institution Nationwide Building Society has signed the Employers with Heart charter, introducing extended maternity leave and a new hospital leave benefit, to better support parents of premature babies.
Organisations that sign the Employers with Heart charter, awarded by premature baby charity The Smallest Things, commit to extending maternity leave for mothers who give birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, giving secondary parents additional paid time off to accommodate time spent at the hospital, and offering support when parents of premature babies return to work. This might include formal or informal flexible working patterns or providing extra paid or unpaid leave.
Nationwide Building Society, which employs 18,000 staff, signed the Employers with Heart charter on 1 July 2019. In conjunction, the organisation has extended its maternity leave and introduced a new hospital leave benefit, which enables the secondary parent to take up to four-weeks of paid leave in order to attend hospital visits and appointments, as well as to support family members. Both policies are effective from 7 June 2019.
The extended maternity and hospital leave benefits do not impact employees’ maternity or paternity leave entitlements.
The new policies were designed in consultation with employees as well as trade union the Nationwide Group Staff Union (NGSU), which has 12,800 members.
Previously, parents of premature babies would have had to start their maternity leave early or would be required to utilise other forms of leave, such as compassionate leave.
Nationwide Building Society signed the Employers with Heart charter to align with its commitment to provide a family-friendly working environment and employment policies; the new leave arrangements will operate alongside the organisation’s other family-orientated benefits, such as family support leave and bereavement leave.
The business communicated the new policies to employees using emails, departmental newsletters, discussion boards, team meetings, case studies published on the staff intranet and a joint statement from Nationwide Building Society and NGSU.
Faye Whitmarsh, head of culture and engagement at Nationwide Building Society, 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.”
Catriona Ogilvy, founder and trustee at The Smallest Things, added: “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.”