Every year in Australia more than 48,000 babies require the help of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN) and sadly, up to one thousand will lose their fight for survival. Yet, not all parents are given the same opportunity to support their baby in hospital.
For these families, the experience of having a baby come into the world not as expected or planned is life changing. Caring for these babies creates increased financial, emotional, and time investment for parents. These families, often, find themselves needing to take leave from work unexpectedly and much earlier than anticipated.
Research conducted by Miracle Babies Foundation reveals that 8 out 10 families with premature babies experience additional financial impacts on their families.
An improved legislation to support these families with an additional special leave entitlement for the hospital period will reduce separation and also assist with more women returning to the workforce when they are ready.
Supporting families with extended paid parental leave to be with the preterm and/or sick baby whilst in hospital for long periods is essential not only to support the bonding between the baby and parent/s but also to ensure that we are not losing women from the workforce.
Miracle Babies Foundation is continuing to raise advocacy and awareness of the Paid Parental Leave (PPL) Legislation in Australia, highlighting the need for more customised legislation and compassion for families with a premature or sick baby, at times spending weeks and months in the hospital.
Under the current Australian Government Paid Parental Leave (PPL) Legislation, eligible parents who are the primary carer of a newborn receive up to 18 weeks' paid parental leave at the national minimum wage. Eligible working dads and partners (including same-sex partners) receive two weeks leave paid at the national minimum wage (Reference: Fair Work Ombudsman - Parental Leave).
However, for the parents of premature and sick babies, current legislation doesn’t consider the needs of parents with babies who spend their first weeks or months of life in a NICU or SCN. These babies may spend anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months or more in NICU or SCN before they are able to safely come home, effectively resulting in parents financially impacted by needing to stop working earlier than planned.
This is of concern as throughout hospitalisation and early parenthood, these parents are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and attachment difficulties. These emotional and psychological impacts are fuelled by factors such as parents’ separation from, and ongoing health concerns for, their babies, as well as financial stress.
Miracle Babies Foundation proposes changes to the Australian Government Paid Parental Leave (PPL) Legislation and Parental Leave Pay (PLP) Scheme for families who have a baby hospitalized for two weeks or more.
"I am pleased to support the Miracle Babies Foundation in their campaign to extend paid parental leave for families with a premature or sick newborn. Becoming a parent is undoubtedly one of life’s great joys, and the time spent with a newborn in the early years are critical to a child’s development.
With many Australian parents having had a baby born premature, many parents understand how difficult this period can be. 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.
Miracle Babies do a remarkable job and I fully support their campaign which will provide considerable support to families who have premature or sick infants". - Dr Mike Freelander, MP
Help us advocate for improvements to the Australian Government Paid Parental Leave legislation for parents of premature and sick babies.
In late 2019 Miracle Babies Foundation partnered with the University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Institute to conduct a survey of families to advocate for changes to the legislation. This is now part of a current project to see positive change for newborns and their families challenged by prematurity or sickness.
We conducted a parent survey to determine the real-life experiences of these families and their opinions around extended parental leave.
The research conducted by Miracle Babies Foundation found 83% of families surveyed experienced additional financial impacts on their family above the normal expected impact of having a newborn as a result of having a baby born requiring specialised hospital care. And 95% of mums couldn’t work while their babies were in the NICU or SCN.
Due to ongoing care requirements, the financial and emotional pressures of having to return to work earlier than planned can cause immense stress to the whole family unit. We know from previous research that parents of preterm babies are 2.5 times more likely to suffer postnatal depression. And one in five parents of very preterm babies still show symptoms of depression and anxiety six months after birth.
The recent Miracle Babies research has established a clear gap in parental leave legislation with more than 99% of families surveyed supporting the introduction of extended parental leave for NICU/SCN parents.
Impact of current Australian paid parental leave on families of preterm and sick infants