Calling On Corporate Australia to Follow Westpac’s Lead with Paid Parental Leave For Pre-Term Birth

This week, one of the Big Four banks in Australia introduced a special paid parental leave policy for their employees. Westpac’s new special paid parental leave for premature birth, which takes effect from 1 October 2021, means if an employee has a pre-term birth (before 37 weeks), they will be entitled to special paid parental leave in addition to the standard parental paid leave.

“Pregnancy is an exciting time in people's lives but can also bring challenges, especially for families with a pre-term baby,” said Westpac Group Executive Human Resources, Christine Parker.

“This additional support for premature birth is about helping our people during this challenging time before they start their parental leave entitlement.

“We know everyone’s experience with pregnancy is different, and as a major employer we want to make sure we’re providing the best support to parents and carers in important life moments.”

As Australia’s leading organisation supporting premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals that care for them, Miracle Babies Foundation has long recognised a gap in paid parental support for these families and welcomes the announced changes. We acknowledge it will help ease some of the burden these families face and look forward to more of corporate Australia improving their parental leave standards for employees.

"I lost 10+ weeks of paid work (being casual with set hours each week) due to having bubs born at 25 weeks. We lived an hour away from the hospital. This put extra strain on our financial position and time spent with bubs.”
Miracle parent from our recent Paid Parental Leave survey.

Every year in Australia more than 48,000 newborn babies require the help of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN). Caring for these babies creates added pressure on families’ emotions, time, and finances. Parents of premature babies often find themselves needing to take leave from work unexpectedly and much earlier than anticipated.

“Westpac is leading the private sector by introducing premature birth leave and we warmly welcome this initiative. It’s so important that parents can be with their premature babies who often require specialised care in their early stages of life and having employers with supportive leave policies can really help to lessen the burden on families,” said Miracle Babies CEO, Kylie Pussell.

Miracle Babies will continue to advocate for improvements to Paid Parental Leave within the private sector and the federal government, to better accommodate families with a sick or premature baby in hospital. We most recently partnered with the Centre of Research Excellence for Newborn Medicine at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and The University of Melbourne to undertake an important research study into experiences of paid parental leave in Australia and the financial impact of having a baby requiring neonatal intensive or special care after birth.

“We need to support families to be with their premature or sick babies during the first year of development. Current parental leave legislation in Australia does not take into account that many parents of premature or sick babies may spend weeks or months with their baby in hospital. This means that some parents are having to go back to work whilst their baby is still in hospital, take leave without pay or are forced to resign from their jobs. This has huge financial impact on families who are already under increased stress,” says Associate Professor Alicia Spittle from the Centre of Research Excellence for Newborn Medicine at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.