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Gavin Newlands, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, has called for fathers of babies born sick or premature to be given extra paid paternity leave. This follows the recent publication of a report by the charity Bliss, the UK's leading charity for babies born premature or sick.

The survey found that 66% of dads had to return to work while their child was still receiving specialist neonatal care. It also showed that 36% of dads resorted to being signed off sick in order to spend time with their baby on the neonatal unit.

Bliss also say that half of all parents would have liked to take more parental leave but couldn’t afford to take any longer off work and 24 per cent of dads said they were concerned for their job if they asked for more time off.

Newlands has joined calls, led by his SNP Colleague for Glasgow East, David Linden MP, for fathers of sick or premature children to be given extra paternity leave.

Commenting on the study, Newlands said:

“Our first daughter, Emma, was born over 6 weeks premature following an emergency caesarean, this was a time of extreme stress given the concern over the health of my wife Lynn and the baby. Everything went well and Emma was given fantastic care in the Special Care Baby Unit at the Southern General and we took 3lb Emma home 2 weeks after her birth.

“We were lucky, not only because the premature birth, in the end, had no material impact on the health and development of our daughter, but that I was allowed to spend that time in the hospital with Lynn and Emma. I had returned to work the day after the birth as Lynn wanted me to use my paternity to help at home when she and the baby were allowed home, but I was lucky as my boss and his wife had gone through a tough pregnancy themselves and was very empathetic.

“He told me that my place was at my wife and daughter’s side and sent me straight to the hospital on additional leave. I am, to this day, extremely grateful to him for allowing me to do that. But this is the rub, it shouldn’t be down to luck, or a benevolent boss. It should be in statute that anyone in that situation should not feel compelled to leave their sick and premature baby at a very vulnerable stage to return to work – the UK Government must make provision for additional leave in these circumstances.

"I have worked with Bliss in the past myself and I strongly support the work that David and his NeoNatal All Party Group are doing on this. It’s an idea whose time has come.”

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