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Support for parents with newborns in neonatal care

23 January 2024

We sat down with bp’s interim chief financial officer, Kate Thomson, to talk about why support for parents with newborns in neonatal care  is so important

bp has introduced a new leave policy to support UK employees whose babies are receiving care in neonatal units – so parents can be there for their newborn babies without worrying about taking leave from work or their income. We sat down with bp’s interim chief financial officer, Kate Thomson, to talk about why such support is so important. 

Kate – you are the executive sponsor for bp’s Working Families group – and a strong supporter of bp’s new UK neonatal care leave policy. Why does it matter so much to you?  

I developed pre-eclampsia when I was pregnant with my first child. She was born premature at 34 weeks and spent the first two weeks of her life in a neonatal unit. I was lucky because the illness was spotted early, and I received fantastic treatment – otherwise she could have been in a neonatal unit for many more weeks.  It wasn’t how we’d imagined our firstborn entering the world and it was scary – but I learnt that I wasn’t alone. Not all parents get to enjoy welcoming their newborn baby home in the way they dreamed of. Over 13 million babies worldwide are born premature each year and around one in seven newborns are admitted to neonatal care in the UK. It can be very distressing for parents.

So, tell us more about the UK policy

It’s a brilliant idea, and it came from the advocacy of employees in bp’s Working Families group. Subject to the terms of the *policy, UK parents employed by bp whose baby is admitted to neonatal care will get that time added on at the end of their parental leave – and get their normal pay too. The policy is in addition to bp parental leave policies, which currently include additional six weeks’ child time leave, with full pay, within 36 months of welcoming a new child.

And how was the policy created? 

It was inspired by bp’s aim 15: to enhance the health and wellbeing of our employees, contractors, and local communities. It is one of many steps that we are taking to promote the health and wellbeing of our workforce and their families.  I’m an executive sponsor of our bp Working Families group – and our mission is to support building an inclusive workplace that is respectful of our employees’ family obligations. We do that through hosting bp family days, webinars and conversation cafes. Inspired by the Neonatal Care Act, group members decided that we needed a policy like this – and then advocated for it. It was very much employee-led.  I’m proud that the support we offer for parents in bp was recognized by the Working Families organization’s 2023 Best Practice Awards ‘Best for Mothers’, with bp noted for ‘supporting mothers at every stage, including through the fertility journey, and successfully forging a family-friendly environment where mothers are choosing to build their careers.'

*Under the policy, UK parents employed by bp, whose baby is admitted to neonatal care for at least seven continuous days in the first 28 days of being born are eligible to take additional paid leave, for up to 12 weeks (after any period of maternity, paternity or adoption leave and within 68 weeks of the child’s birth). The amount of leave parents are eligible for is relative to the length of time their baby spends in the neonatal care unit and must be taken in blocks of one week or more. 

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