How can employers offer support for employees who have babies needing neonatal care?
We believe that businesses have a duty to look after the wellbeing of parents who work for them. After all, the majority of the working population are parents so it’s in a business’s interest to make sure parents are as happy and productive as possible.
There are many ways employers can support employees. Additional neonatal leave should be standard. But there are other things like having access to a one-to-one midwife, or other health professionals. This is something we provide.
Keep communication channels open with your employee so they feel like they’re in the loop but don’t bombard them. Just check in with them occasionally and ask how they’re doing with no expectations or ulterior motive. A little bit of love goes a very long way and will support them in feeling less disconnected.
How people are treated during this time that is filled with lots of emotion and anxiety can set people on a positive or negative path. So it’s super important for businesses to get it right otherwise they’ll lose amazing talent.
Is a maternity leave policy enough?
It depends on how flexible the policy is. A policy does not need to be a rigid set of rules, managers can talk to individuals and provide options. A policy can be written in a way that allows flexibility so that each individual can make it work in a way that is best for their individual circumstances. It is also important for paternity and family policies to be flexible, not just maternity leave. Neonatal birth affects all parents, not just mothers. Partners are an important role, not only for the baby but also for their partner.
Part of having a perfect parental leave model is recognising that people’s needs and wishes can vary so drastically. And so the ideal model must allow for flexibility whilst also exposing people to ideas and approaches so that they can decide what is best for them. Progressive companies are looking towards applying a personalised approach which is great as HR has faced scrutiny for being very process driven instead of human focused.
What can employers offer that goes over and above standard provision?
From a preventative point of view, support from the start of pregnancy is also important as stress, anxiety and lack of support can increase the risk of preterm birth, so reducing anxieties as much as possible and ensuring parents have access to support can help to reduce the likelihood of this happening. In the workplace, anxiety can start from the moment somebody is planning to become pregnant or finds out they’re pregnant and worries about how they will tell work. This needs to stop. Companies need to build a family friendly culture that eliminates this unnecessary anxiety that can really have a negative impact on the health of parents and their baby.
We are big fans of preventative support. In terms of supporting parents we find that many companies focus on: ok you’re pregnant, this is what’s going to happen when you leave, see you in a year. but what we do is focus on supporting them during pregnancy, ultimately to reduce anxiety, to help them have a healthy birth, to make sure they are in the best position to return to work healthy and happy.