Belfast council workers who have premature babies to be given extended maternity leave
Extra 12 weeks of paid leave if a child is born prematurely
Belfast councillors have voted in favour of amending the maternity leave policy for staff.
If it's fully approved, it'll allow mothers of premature babies to not start maternity leave until the child's due date.
According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, it's the first move of its kind for the civil service in Northern Ireland.
The plan would mean any leave required from the delivery date will be defined as compassionate leave and it won't affect a council employee's right to full parental leave.
The council's legal representative told the chamber that the committee was asked to agree the motion "in principle" pending a report by council officers looking at "financial and other implications".
At present, all eligible employees in the UK have a right to 52 weeks maternity leave but maternity leave and pay cannot be extended if a baby is born prematurely.
Workers may take options like annual leave, or unpaid leave.
A bill is currently making its way through the House of Lords. If passed, it would mean parents could take up to an extra 12 weeks of paid leave if their child is born prematurely.
This would not apply to Northern Ireland where employment law is a devolved matter. Every year in Northern Ireland 1,900 babies are born prematurely.
"It is a difficult period.."
The DUP councillor who proposed this was Gareth Spratt. He said the issue was close to his heart as his twin daughters were born prematurely.
He told the chamber: "My wife's waters broke quite unexpectedly on a trip to the theatre at a gestation of only 23 weeks and five days.
"Our worst fears seemed inevitable. However, with the intervention of the health service, our girls did not arrive until a gestation of 27 weeks and one day.
"Desperately sick, the prognosis was bleak, and we were encouraged to have the girls baptised because their condition was unsurvivable.
"Seventy-three days in hospital, and 73 days from my wife's maternity leave.
"That's 73 days from your chance to bond as a family, and do all the things that new families do.
"It's a very difficult time, there's very little contact, and obviously a strict hygiene policy. With frequent medical interventions, it is a difficult period."