Mayor plans new premature and neonatal baby leave

03 October 2018
  • Sadiq to introduce premature and neonatal baby leave at City Hall
  • New policy is part of his #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign and will strengthen the support given to working parents
  • Mayor calls on employers across the UK to match his policy
  • City Hall awarded "Employer with Heart" accreditation from premature baby charity, The Smallest Things


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has revealed pioneering new plans to support parents of premature babies and new-born babies requiring neonatal care.


Under the Mayor’s proposals, parents working at City Hall will be entitled to paid leave if their baby is born prematurely, or is in need of neonatal care in hospital.


Recognising that this is a difficult and stressful experience for any parent, the Mayor is calling on UK employers to follow his lead and support parents by including this type of leave in their maternity and paternity policies.


Every year, more than 95,000 babies are cared for in neonatal units in the UK because they have either been born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), or full term (at or after 37 weeks) but are sick1. Parents can wait weeks for their new-born baby to be allowed to come home, often having to travel back and forth from hospital.


The Mayor’s plans will mean parents working at City Hall will be supported during this difficult time. If the parent has given birth to their baby before 37 weeks, they will be entitled to a day’s premature baby leave and pay for every day between the date their baby was born and the due date. The parent entitled to paternity leave will be eligible to an additional two weeks of paid leave, or a day’s premature baby leave and pay for every day their baby spends in hospital up until the due date – whichever is greater.  


In addition, parents of babies born at 37 weeks or after who require neonatal care during their first 28 days of life will both be granted additional neonatal leave and pay for every day their baby spends in neonatal care during that time.


When returning to work, new parents will also be offered additional support from City Hall, including formal and informal flexible working patterns, and offering additional paid or unpaid leave, if necessary.


Recognising that returning to work after having a baby can place an enormous strain on families, and particularly new parents in the workforce, this new policy is the latest move as the Mayor drives forward gender equality in the capital through his #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign. This has included a number of steps to push for gender equality in the workplace and improve support given to working parents, leading by example from City Hall with ‘Our Time’ – a scheme to support more women into leadership roles in London, tackling the pay gap, and introducing new hiring and development measures to support women in the workplace.


To encourage other employers to adopt a similar approach, the Mayor’s Good Work Standard will include premature baby leave and neonatal baby leave as part of its best practice guidance. In addition, City Hall will work with partners and campaigners such as Maternity Action, Working Families, and The Smallest Things to share this instance of leading by example, to encourage other employers to develop similar policies.


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Becoming a parent should be an exciting time, but unfortunately for some parents it can also be a difficult and emotional experience. It is only right that employers give new parents the time and support they need to adjust to this momentous change in their lives and to support their return to work.

I am pleased to set out our plans for how this can be done at City Hall, and I encourage other employers to learn from the approach we are taking and think about how best they can support new parents. London is a city of opportunity for all. We should do everything can to give hardworking and talented parents the support they need to thrive in the workplace, and the support children need to get the best start in life.”


Subject to consultation over the next month, the proposed new policy would make City Hall eligible for the ‘employers with heart’ charter, run by the charity, The Smallest Things.


Catriona Ogilvy, founder and trustee of The Smallest Things, said: “We are pleased that the Mayor has taken this ground-breaking step of recognising and supporting families of premature babies and that City Hall has been awarded our ‘Employer with Heart’ accreditation.


“Visiting a premature baby on a neonatal intensive care unit is a traumatic, distressing time for parents without the added worry of work and pay. It certainly shouldn’t count as parental leave. The Mayor’s new policy gives parents precious time to bond with their fragile babies outside of the hospital environment and take care of them at home for longer. We are delighted that Sadiq is joining The Smallest Things in encouraging all employers to provide extended leave to parents of premature babies.”


Laura Tobin, Good Morning Britain weather presenter, said: “I think it is fantastic to raise awareness of premature birth. Supporting families financially means they can focus all their energy and attention on their sick baby. It's horrible that your maternity leave starts when your baby is born and not when you bring them home. Our baby Charlotte was born three months early and spent three months in hospital. It's a very emotional time visiting every day, without the added financial pressures Every day your baby is in hospital it's a day they aren't at home and your maternity leave is being paid - plus the additional cost for many parents of driving to hospital, parking and food. If you're planning on having nine months maternity leave with your baby and they are three months premature, it only ends up being six months at home with your baby – you're robbed of that extra time.


“It is a very stressful time. For the financial side of the situation to be looked after, so you can put all of your energy into looking after your sick baby, would have made the world a difference for us – and will make the world of difference for any parent unfortunate enough to find themselves in a similar situation. I'm 100 per cent behind the Mayor of London’s new policy, and know that it will make all the difference to those who are facing the hardest moment of their life.”


Ros Bragg, Director, Maternity Action, said: “Additional, well-paid leave for parents of premature babies and babies in neonatal care will make life a lot easier for new parents dealing with the stress and anxiety of a sick child. On our advice line, we regularly hear from parents struggling to negotiate the flexibility they need to balance work and caring responsibilities. This initiative from City Hall sets a valuable example which all employers could follow."

Sarah Miles, mum to Charlotte and Eva, born at 28 weeks, said: “When my twins were born 12 weeks early, I had no idea my maternity leave would start the very next day. We were thrown into a world of incubators, ventilators, lines, monitors, bleeping machinery and tube feeding. It was terrifying. I sat for hours, every day, willing my babies to survive and waiting for the moment I would be allowed to hold them. In total I spent 197 days of my maternity leave visiting my girls on the neonatal unit. My paid maternity leave finished on Day 270. It just wasn’t fair.”

Notes to editors



  1. Bliss Neonatal care:


This proposed new policy, is subject to internal consultation.


The additional premature or neonatal leave and pay will be added to the end of the parent’s maternity or paternity leave period, after the maternity or paternity leave entitlement has ended.


The Mayor has taken a number of steps to push for gender equality in the workplace. This year Sadiq launched a new scheme to support more women into leadership roles in London – ‘Our Time: Supporting Future Leaders’, which is the first and largest-scale programme of its kind to be adopted in the public sector, taking  crucial action to address the gender imbalance in leadership roles.


The Mayor has also made tackling the pay gap a key priority, pushing two gender pay gap reports he has put in place a number of measures to promote training and promotional opportunities for women. In addition to ‘Our Time’, this includes ensuring all interview panels are gender balanced, and offering access to external mentors for women at senior level. The mayor has also introduced a childcare deposit loan across all organisations in the GLA family, giving parents a helping hand to get back to work. The interest-free loan scheme gives all parents in the GLA group - including Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade - the funds they need to cover the up-front costs of childcare provision.


The Smallest Things ‘employers with heart charter’ asks employers to understand the needs of employees with a premature baby, to provide support to parents with extended leave and when returning to work. To find out more, visit:


Previous press releases


25 January 2017 – Mayor urges London’s employers to make childcare more accessible:

19 March 2018 – Mayor: London must do more to get women into senior roles:

14 May 2018 – Mayor launches initiative to address the lack of women leaders:


About #BehindEveryGreatCity

To mark the centenary of the first women in the UK winning the right to vote, and to drive forward gender equality across the city today, the Mayor has launched a year-long women's equality campaign: #BehindEveryGreatCity.

The campaign will include a year-long programme of public art by women artists on London Underground and the unveiling of the first statue of a women - suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett - in Parliament Square. For more information, visit:

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