If you ask most people what their perception of politics is, it’s almost always politicians knocking lumps out of each other at Prime Minister’s Questions like some pound shop Punch and Judy show.  

In reality, and away from the heat of the Chamber on a Wednesday at high noon, there’s actually a reasonable amount of cross-party work undertaken by politicians to try and improve the laws of the land for those we seek to serve.

One such example is the Neonatal Care (Leave & Pay) Bill, being piloted through Parliament today by Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East MP Stuart McDonald.

For the last five years, I have been leading a campaign in Parliament to reform employment legislation, specifically with a view to ensuring that the parents of babies born premature or sick get adequate leave and pay from work whilst their child is in hospital.

Put simply, it is a crying shame that until now parents whose children are in neonatal care have had to choose between being at work or losing time and money by being at their baby’s bedside at the most vulnerable time in their lives. That is an invidious choice that no parent should ever have to make but it is the reality even today.  

Each year in the UK, 100,000 babies are born premature or sick and require a longer stay in hospital.

You see, for me this is deeply personal and a classic example of how a representative democracy can and should work well but I’ve not been doing this on my own, instead with a small group of MPs who have united, brought their lived experience together and worked to reform the law.

That small group of MPs is made up of SNP, Labour and Conservative politicians. And though our politics divides us, we have one thing in common - that as well as being MPs, we are all first and foremost parents, and parents of children born premature or sick.

My own two kids, Isaac and Jessica, are just seven and three-years-old. They are like any other kids you would meet, in so far as they love ice cream, wake up far too early and have an infuriatingly high tolerance for listening to the Baby Shark song on loop!

But Isaac and Jessica’s early days in this world were slightly different from other kids. Both had extended stays in the neonatal unit at hospital. 

Indeed, in Jessica’s case, she spent the first month of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Even after that, when she was finally discharged from hospital and at home, she was on oxygen 24 hours a day for many, many months. 

These extended stays in hospital often eat into the time that mums and dads have for paid maternity and paternity leave. 

As it happens, in my own case, my statutory two weeks off work were both well up by the time the kids finally got out of the hospital. This meant having to balance time at work whilst being in the hospital with my children. That is an incredibly hard thing to do, especially when your little one is deeply unwell.

I distinctly remember watching Jessica turning blue, various monitors and alarms buzzing away and a group of neonatal nurses rushing in to resuscitate her. The idea that I would be at work whilst this was happening was nonsense. Parents need to be with their premature or sick-born babies.

The truth is, the vast majority of these extended hospital stays are well under 12 weeks. In truth, most of these little miracle babies just need that extra bit of attention, support and care from our outstanding National Health Service.

We know from parental testimony that when companies do the right thing and grant discretionary leave to parents, it means they will come back to work in a better frame of mind, having had the time to care for their little ones.

But until now, that has been the problem - this was only ever at the whim of a benevolent employer. And as the recent P&O scandal has shown, not all employers are good employers. 

So that’s why we are today changing employment law to legislate for neonatal leave and pay.

Whilst it’s too late for my kids, it does mean that the parents of future premature-born babies finally get the time, financial support and care they truly need.

And all because a group of politicians who had been through that exact same experience have put party politics aside and worked together to ensure that, never again, will parents have to make the hideous choice between losing pay or being with their child on the neonatal ward.