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Earliest days important, and employers can help

Mervi Jokinen of the Royal College of Midwives has been talking about the early days of a baby's life and how employers can help with maternity leave.
Parental input in the earliest days of a baby's life is extremely important - and employers can help with sensible maternity leave arrangements, according to an expert.

The government has recommended a minimum of six months for breastfeeding which has been made easier by changes in the law on maternity leave, but some employers are more open to it than others, says Mervi Jokinen of the Royal College of Midwives.

New mothers are entitled to 52 weeks of leave, with statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks.

The first six weeks pay 90 per cent of average weekly earnings, then up to £117.18 for the rest - although employers can offer their own schemes with higher pay and longer leave if they wish.

"Some employers are very good already in terms of the HR arrangements that they have and in terms of maternity leave allocation," said Ms Jokinen.

"But some employers are really not very childbirth friendly.

"So I think having the legislation has helped in terms of new mothers not being penalised."

There are conditions on maternity leave - 26 weeks of continuous employment must have been completed before the entitlement kicks in.

Fathers are entitled to one or two weeks of paternal leave at £117.18 or 90 per cent of weekly earnings if this is lower.

Ms Jokinen stressed that the importance of the first few days cannot be underestimated.

"There are a lot of adjustments to make and you have to get to know your baby … It's important to start the baby's life on the right footing."

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