SOUTH Ayrshire are the first council in Scotland to allow mothers, whose babies are born premature, to apply for extended premature baby leave.

This falls under the new Special Leave Policy and follows in the footsteps of Waltham Forest and Haringey Councils, providing an additional week of paid leave for the mother for every week the baby is born prematurely before the 37th week of pregnancy.

The issue was discussed at the Leadership Panel last week.

A spokeswoman for Employee and Customer Services said: “We are proposing to introduce additional paid leave. We would be the first council in Scotland to do this.”

Cllr Peter Henderson said: “This to me is one of the most important papers we have seen. The trauma with premature births is not recognised. We are taking the right steps here and leading the way.”

Mothers are already entitled to start their maternity leave 11 weeks before their due date but in the case of a premature birth before that, they could apply for leave to allow them to look after their baby in the hospital.

Extended premature baby leave would also be given to the mother at the end of her period of maternity leave to enable her to spend quality time with her baby.

Women who experience a premature birth or whose babies are stillborn on or after the 25th week of pregnancy still qualify for maternity leave. 
Before the 24th week of pregnancy, the employee is not entitled to maternity pay but will be eligible for sick pay.

Fathers will be given a further two weeks of paid compassionate leave.