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Government plans to introduce neonatal leave and pay for working parents

Employment Law

Additional statutory leave and pay for eligible working parents of premature babies or babies that require neonatal care are on the horizon, but what will the measures include?

Martin Bloom, Head of the Employment Law department at Hegarty Solicitors discusses the new rights proposed by the government and when they are expected to be introduced.

The proposals for neonatal leave and pay were added to the Good Work Plan in 2019 and following a period of consultation, the government accepted these proposals and the new neonatal leave and pay entitlement was confirmed in the 2020 budget. However, it is expected the reforms are not due to come into force until 2023.

Neonatal Leave and Pay consultations

Research carried out by Bliss, a charity that supports babies that are born prematurely or sick, shows that every year over 100,000 babies are being cared for in neonatal units within hospitals in the UK. This can be a very stressful time for parents and some parents may have concerns about spending time with their babies whilst also remaining employed.

In July 2019, the government issued a consultation in which they requested input on several proposals to support families in being able to balance their work and personal lives. The second chapter of this consultation included proposals to introduce Neonatal Leave and Pay. Through this consultation, the government were able to identify the hardships parents face during the period their babies are in neonatal care. For example, some mothers have no choice but to either delay their return to work, work reduced hours or give up work completely as their child was too fragile or too sick to be left in childcare when they were expecting to return to work. Additionally, some fathers are forced to take sick leave or unpaid leave when their child and the mother requires their support.

Support for parents of children requiring neonatal care

The government recognised that the current leave and pay entitlements do not properly support parents in such circumstances. Following the consultation, the government has committed to offer additional support for parents by:

  • Introducing leave for parents of babies in Neonatal Care.
  • Introducing statutory pay for parents of babies in Neonatal Care.
  • Legislating and implementing the above commitment entitlement within the forthcoming Employment Bill.

The full government response to the Neonatal Leave and Pay proposals was published in March 2020.

For more information about current statutory rights for employees or any other aspect of employment law, please contact Martin Bloom on 01733 295 632 or email martin.bloom@hegarty.co.uk.

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