The government has approved a law offering paid neonatal leave for parents of babies who require additional care after birth.
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in addition to other parental leave entitlements such as maternity, paternity and shared parental leave, to spend more time with their baby and delaying the requirement to go back to work if their baby is still undergoing hospital care.
MPs backed the introduction of the paid neonatal leave bill following its second reading in parliament today (15 July), however it will still need to be approved by the House of Lords before it becomes law.
Business minister Jane Hunt said: “Having a newborn in neonatal care is an incredibly worrying time for parents. No family should also have to agonise about their return to work, or whether they have enough leave in place.
“By putting our full weight behind this Bill, I hope we can take one concern off the minds of new parents and give them the additional paid time off they need to care for their poorly baby.”
SNP MP Stuart McDonald, who introduced the private members’ bill to parliament, said he was “delighted” it had received government backing.
He said: “No parent should have to choose between being with their premature or sick baby in neonatal care and having to return to work to earn a living; or enjoying the full benefits of parental leave and going back to work.
“With the cost of living soaring, it is more important than ever that we secure an urgent change in the law so that parents of babies in neonatal care get the paid leave and support they need at an incredibly challenging time.”
Delighted the Neonatal Care (Leave & Pay) Bill passed its 2nd reading in Parliament today, with huge support from across the House. Massive thanks to @Blisscharity & @_SmallestThings for their invaluable advice over the last few weeks, and to all colleagues for their support. pic.twitter.com/8aYNLuxYdF
— Stuart McDonald MP (@Stuart_McDonald) July 15, 2022
According to the Bill’s explanatory notes, the entitlement could be introduced in 2024 or 2025. This is because HM Revenue & Customs and commercial payroll providers usually require around 18 months notice to implement changes which enable employers to administer new statutory payments.
It says that if the Bill successfully completes all of its parliamentary stages in 2023 it is likely that implementation will take place 18 months after that date.
Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive at premature baby charity Bliss, said: “Currently, thousands of parents every year have no choice but to return to work while their baby is in hospital or spend months of their maternity leave next to an incubator. After the progress made today, we are one step closer to giving many parents the much-needed time to be where they need to be – by their baby’s side in hospital.
“We know there is now more to do to continue the Bill’s passage through Parliament, and we look forward to continuing to work with Stuart McDonald MP and the government, and MPs across all parties to ensure that this Bill becomes law as quickly as possible.”