A new petition is calling on the federal government to introduce more paid parental leave entitlements for parents of premature babies in recognition of the extra weeks or months often spent in hospital.
Almost half of premature babies will spend between one and four months in hospital, with 48,000 babies requiring the support of a Neonatal Intensive Unit or Special Care Nursery every year.
The petition has been launched by the Miracle Babies Foundation and calls for an extra week of paid parental leave to be granted to families per week they spend in hospital, beyond two weeks for a maximum of 14 weeks. Families would then be able to commence the standard leave entitlement.
Currently, the government’s paid parental leave covers 20 weeks of paid leave that is able to be shared between both parents. There is no additional support for parents of babies who are born early and require specialist care in hospital beyond two weeks.
The petition will presented to parliament by Dr Mike Freelander, on 16 November.
Research from the Miracle Babies Foundation shows that 8 in 10 families who have premature babies experience a greater financial burden. Having to use their paid parental leave entitlements while their baby is still in hospital often means parents of premature babies need to return to work sooner than anticipated.
Federal Labor MP, Dr Mike Freelander said he was pleased to support the campaign.
“As a paediatrician, I know that many children are required to stay in hospital for extended periods of time, and it is therefore clear that we need to review the scope of paid parental leave to better assist families in these challenging times,” he said.
Rachel Dimech, a mother of a premature baby, said returning to work early was detrimental to her own health.
“I returned to work only two weeks after my son was born, only to end up back in hospital with an infection because I didn’t take the time to recover,” she said.
“I had no choice – my son was in the hospital for 85 days, and I was only eligible for 18 weeks paid time off, leaving me with only 42 days at home with my newborn. I could either spend time with him in hospital, or spend time with him at home, but I couldn’t do both.”
“If I had access to additional paid leave for the time my son was in hospital, I could have worried about him – not keeping a roof over our heads.”
You can find the peition here.
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