11 August 2022

Families of new-borns who are born prematurely or unwell will feel heartened following Parliament’s decision to pass the Neonatal Care Bill which is due to come into force next year. The Head of Employment Law at Battens, Dawn Gallie reports on what the new Bill will mean for families and employers alike.

After approval in the House of Lords, new parents will be able to take up to 12 weeks paid leave, in addition to the current statutory parental leave entitlements. (Currently, maternity leave can be up to 52 weeks and paternity leave up to 2 weeks; shared parental leave allows each parent to split a maximum of 50 weeks.)

The Private Members Bill that passed its second reading and likely to come into force by the end of 2023, will be welcomed by campaigners as it seeks to fill a surprising gap in early life family support. Statistics show that one in four fathers and non-birthing parents of premature babies are required to choose between returning to work or borrowing money to fund a neonatal stay. Furthermore, some employers offer Hobson’s choice when the question of returning to work versus additional leave is presented to the employee.

The situation for mothers is not much improved, as an extended stay in hospital does not stop the clock ticking on maternity leave. Unforeseen complications can have severe consequences for postnatal heath, twinned with the fact, that new mothers can be faced with the daunting prospect of returning to full-time work a matter of weeks after returning home.

There will be a positive impact for new-borns too, as recent studies have highlighted unparalleled benefits that “hands-on” parental contact can have on an unwell new-born. This long overdue legislation will therefore help to ease the burden both emotionally and financially, helping tens-of-thousands of families each year.

Undoubtedly, employers looking to support their workforce will only see this as a positive step too, as it will encourage a healthier and happier return to work.

Once in law, neonatal care leave will be available to employees with 26 weeks continuous service with their current employer and who earn at least £123.00 per week. It 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 amount available to parents will synchronize with other statutory parental leave entitlements.

Please get in touch today if you would like advice on your rights and entitlements as a new parent, or maybe now is the time to review your parental leave policy for your business.

For more information contact a member of the employment team at Battens. Dawn Gallie on 01935 846233 or Remziye Aldogan on 01935 856164