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A Bill for extra leave and pay for parents of premature babies passed its second reading in Parliament.
A Private Member’s Bill to legislate for neonatal leave and pay passed its second reading in Parliament today.
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill is the result of an ongoing campaign by parents who have highlighted the need for more time with their babies following neonatal care. According to charity The Smallest Things, over half of premature babies are readmitted to hospital while almost a quarter of parents are diagnosed with PTSD as a result of premature birth.
The Smallest Things has been working closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), SNP MP Stuart McDonald, who introduced the Bill, and other charities and families of babies born prematurely to finetune policies for this new legislation.
In 2019 the Government launched a consultation which included proposals to introduce neonatal care leave and pay, the former as a day one right and the latter subject to the same service requirements as maternity pay. in March 2020, the Government committed to introducing neonatal care leave and pay and measures to introduce it were included in the now shelved Employment Bill. The first reading of the Private Member’s Bill was on 15th June 2022 and would see parents get up to an extra 12 weeks of paid leave. After the second reading the Bill proceeds to committee stage – where each clause (part) and any amendments (proposals for change) to the Bill may be debated.
Catriona Ogilvy, Founder of The Smallest Things, says: “This legislation will give families the emotional and financial support they need at a time of great stress and trauma. No parent should be sitting next to an incubator or neonatal cot worrying about work and pay.
“Each year, more than 100,000 premature and sick babies are admitted into UK neonatal units. There is currently no allowance for parents of these babies who can spend weeks or months in hospital before going home. Many parents return to work while their baby is still in hospital and many mothers spend a significant portion of their maternity leave in the neonatal unit. Time spent in neonatal care should not count as maternity or paternity leave.”
Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “On our free legal advice helpline, we have heard from many parents who have been forced to make the impossible choice between visiting their sick baby and keeping their job and income. This is a choice that no parent should have to make.
“Not only is this Bill essential for parents and carers, but it is also good for business. Ninety-nine percent of the employers that responded to the Government’s consultation were in favour of neonatal leave and pay. The current absence of a dedicated neonatal leave and pay entitlement means that many parents are using sick leave to spend time with their babies. This is not sustainable, and is costing employers significant sums of money as they cannot reclaim statutory sick pay. Under this bill, employers would be able to reclaim the cost of neonatal pay, representing a significant saving.”
Working Families would like the legislation eventually expanded to include those on different types of employment contracts — not just employees.