It’s about time … companies support employees most in need

Nina Gilbert
April 21, 2022
Clock are extremely proud to announce we are now part of The Smallest Thing’s “Employer with Heart” charter - which supports parents of babies born prematurely

Clock have pledged commitment to supporting the unique needs of premature babies and their families by extending parental leave for employees who give birth early.

Female employees of Clock who give birth prior to 37 weeks’ gestation will now be granted extended maternity leave at full pay by the number of days their baby was born early. Fathers and partners will receive an extra two weeks’ leave in addition to their paternity leave.

So, what made Clock consider this? Probably me!

To say this topic is personally very close to my heart is a bit of an understatement, following the birth of my son Harrison 4 years ago. Whilst working at Clock, Harrison was born on the cusp of viability at 23 weeks on the dot, at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London.

It is the scariest, most unexpected feeling having your baby taken from you and whisked straight to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) - I didn’t even get to meet him the day he was born. He was so premature and so tiny, weighing just 420 grams, we were told he probably wouldn’t survive the night and we should ‘expect the worst’.

Harrison did make it through the night... but only just. His lung collapsed within a few hours of birth - our poor tiny boy was critically sick and there was nothing we could do. We went to see him in the NICU the following morning and it's hard to explain what I felt, I think I was in shock and exhaustion but I knew I loved him more than anything the moment I saw him. He was fighting for his life and I vowed to stay by his side throughout.

Things got worse for Harrison the next day when his other lung collapsed. With double chest drains in such a tiny body the doctors weren't holding out much hope. But I refused to relinquish mine - hope was all my husband and I had. From that moment on we were well and truly aboard the NICU roller-coaster, with it's heart-wrenching ups and downs, emergency trips to theatre and a general feeling of not knowing what the future would hold.

To cut a long story short, eventually after 178 days in hospital our little baby boy finally came home. And then the fun really started! Since then, Harrison has continued to go from strength to strength and I couldn’t be more proud of the amazing little boy he is today. He starts school in September and is living life like any other four year old. I realise how lucky we are and how very different this could have been for us all. None of this would have been possible without the amazing work and support from all the staff at Evelina, to whom we are eternally grateful.

Unfortunately, however, the additional financial strain this experience put on our family was huge. Back then, and currently, maternity leave starts the day the baby is born. This is not right. Maternity leave and finances should not be something for parents to worry about when their whole world has been turned upside down following the birth of a premature or very sick baby. I am therefore extremely proud that Clock have agreed to sign up to the 'Employer with Heart' charter to support other parents who may find themselves in the situation I was in, in the future. I can only hope more employers do the same.

Additionally, to show our dedicated support to the Evelina hospital who saved Harrison’s life many, many times, Clock have built a smartphone app to support parents who may find themselves in the terrifying situation I did. The app is currently in the Beta stage, being tested by parents and is a product we hope to be able to roll out to all hospitals across the UK. Watch this space!