A private member’s bill to provide paid leave for parents whose baby is born prematurely or requires specialist care due to being sick has passed its second reading in parliament, having secured the backing of the government.

Under the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill, introduced by Stuart C McDonald MP, thousands of parents whose babies require specialist care after birth will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to other leave entitlements, such as maternity and paternity leave.

Once it becomes 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 of seven full days or more.

The leave must be taken within 68 weeks of the baby’s first admission to neonatal care and the parent must give notice in writing to their employer of the weeks they are intending to take the leave.

A parent who applies for leave must satisfy the following conditions:

  • Have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with their current employer.
  • Have normal weekly earnings which are not less than the lower earnings limit, currently £123 per week.

Paid neonatal leave was a 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment. The government then consulted on proposals and committed, in its response, to:

  • Introduce leave for parents of babies in neonatal care.
  • Introduce statutory pay for parents of babies in neonatal care.
  • Legislate to implement the entitlement and the relevant commitments in a forthcoming employment bill.

Yet, although it included these proposals in its March 2020 budget, the employment bill has never materialised.

To read the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill in full, click here