A COUPLE who work at Arrowe Park Hospital have helped change workplace ruling to allow extended leave for parents of premature babies after their own daughter was born 12 weeks early.

Speech and language therapist Catherine Flynn and her partner Neil Smithson, an orthotist, welcomed their daughter Emmeline at just 28 weeks.

Emmeline spent her first 10 weeks of life in hospital under specialist neonatal care.

During this time Catherine was surprised that current Government policy meant that the weeks she had spent by her newborn's bedside were counted as part of her maternity leave.

Although her main focus was to take baby Emmeline home, Catherine realised that by the time she needed return to work, Emmeline would not have been at the same stage of development as other babies.

After doing some research, Catherine heard about The Smallest Things charity who campaign for extended leave for parents with premature babies and urge workplaces to sign up to their Employer with Heart charter.

Catherine and Neil then relayed their story at a regular monthly forum to the director of workforce at Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH) and in a matter of weeks, the organisation signed up to the Employer with Heart charter.

This means that WUTH now extends parental leave for staff whose babies are born prematurely.

Catherine told the Globe: “We’re really pleased. I think if it can help someone else at WUTH who is in our position to know that they are going to have that time with their baby when they get home it’s really important.

"Hopefully someone else can benefit from it. We’re really thrilled the organisation listened to us.

“I’d just like to thank the executive team and say how grateful we are that they granted us the extra leave.

"Our baby is okay now but when she was born we didn’t know that would be the case.

"If you know you’ve got the extra time it will really help because it’s such a stressful situation.”

Founded in 2014, The Smallest Things charity aims to promote the good health of premature babies and their families.

The charity was the brainchild of mum Catriona Ogilvy following the premature birth of her two sons and looks to recognise the 'significant impact' a premature birth has on a family.

Helen Marks, director of Workforce at WUTH, said: “We would like to thank Catherine and Neil for bringing this to our attention.

"As a family hospital, we take pride that we are the biggest employer locally.

"We were really pleased to make these important changes as it was the right thing to do.

“This additional leave will give parents that important extra time with their baby.

"We know this will also make such a real difference to staff who may find themselves in similar circumstances.”

To find out more about the Employer with Heart charter visit: https://thesmallestthings.org/take-action/employer-with-heart-charter/