Marks & Spencer is offering up to 12 weeks of paid leave for staff whose babies need specialist neonatal care, in what it described as an industry-leading scheme.

The launch is part of M&S’ efforts to provide staff with more support and flexibility “so they don’t miss out on the moments that really matter” and its wider ‘Worklife’ programme to help employees strike a work/life balance. 

The retailer said the new leave arrangements will benefit families of premature babies or those that need additional care after they are born without having to worry about work or using up their maternity, paternity or adoption leave.

The idea came after an M&S food sections manager at the Ealing Broadway store, Pam Hedermann, shared her experience of premature birth with Jess Cooper from the people team at M&S head office.

M&S group HR director Sarah Findlater said: “We’re continually listening to colleagues like Pam and Jess to make sure M&S is a great place to work for families and that means being an employer that supports them through all of life’s unexpected moments.

“We know that being a parent of a baby who requires neonatal care is an incredibly worrying time and that time may be spent with their baby in the hospital rather than at home. We want to do all we can to support colleagues who find themselves in this heartbreaking situation and we hope the introduction of neonatal leave will provide some peace of mind so that their focus can be on their baby without having to worry about pay or using up their maternity, paternity or adoption leave.”