Neonatal Care leave
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill 2022-23 was backed by the government on 15 July 2022 when it was introduced in the House of Commons as a Private Member’s Bill and it has now passed its Second Reading in Parliament with support from the government. The Bill was considered by a Public Bill Committee on 7 September 2022 with all suggested amendments to the Bill agreed without division. These long awaited rights are likely to come into law in either 2024 or 2025, subject to its successful completion of the necessary parliamentary approvals in 2023.
Once in law, neonatal care leave will be available to employees from their first day in a new job and will apply to parents of babies who are admitted into hospital up to the age of 28 days, and who have a continuous stay in hospital of 7 full days or more. The right to receive this leave fully paid will be subject to continuous length of employment and minimum earning requirements. Subject to the aforementioned conditions, employees will be entitled to receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave per parent.
Various charities, including Bliss and The Smallest Things, have campaigned (including submitting petitions) for additional paid leave for parents for premature babies since 2015. In 2019 the government launched a consultation, Good Work Plan: Proposals to Support Families- this included proposals to include neonatal care leave and pay. Similar measures were also included in the Employment Bill which was proposed in the 2019 Queen’s Speech. The Bill’s sponsor, MP Stuart C McDonald, has explained that the purpose of the Bill is to ensure that parents of premature babies are able to be present to care for their babies, on and after being on neonatal units, without suffering financial hardship.
This new type of leave with hopefully provide some comfort and reassurance to parents who face such hardship at what should be a happy time for new parents.