After many years of campaigning from Bliss, the UK’s leading charity for babies born premature and sick, The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act was given Royal Assent last week and is now law. It is expected to be implemented in April 2025.
For the first time, families will have a statutory entitlement to paid leave from work if their baby needs neonatal care, giving employed parents a day one right to leave from work if their baby receives neonatal care for more than seven continuous days, before the baby reaches 28 days of life.
The length of leave and statutory neonatal pay for employed parents will be based on how long their baby receives neonatal care, up to 12 weeks.
Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss, said: “After so many years of campaigning, we are absolutely thrilled to see neonatal leave and pay finally become law. This will make a huge difference to around 60,000 parents and their babies every year. It will relieve the additional stress of having to juggle looking after a critically ill baby in hospital with work, ease some of the financial pressure and, by allowing parents to be more involved in their baby’s care, improve the health outcomes of premature and sick babies.”
“For many families the inflexibility of the current parental leave system exacerbates the trauma that parents experience when their baby is admitted to neonatal care. This law has the potential to transform the experience of both parents and employers.”
Recent Bliss research found that in around 70 per cent of families with a significant neonatal stay, at least one parent returned to work while their baby or babies were still in hospital.
Most employers want to provide more support to their employees if they have a baby admitted to neonatal care – they just lack a framework to do so. The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act provides an excellent opportunity to support employees during a challenging period of their lives.
Dr Krystal Wilkinson, Associate Professor in Human Resource Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, researches pathways to parenthood, including complications, and the intersection with employment.
Wilkinson said that leave, pay and other supports around neonatal care will be a win-win for employees and employers: “Currently, many employees take sick leave in lieu of any other paid leave option; attend work when they are not psychologically fit; or leave the workforce altogether.
“By implementing a neonatal leave and pay policy, organisations will ensure that the leave parents take is predictable (as far as it can be) for them as well as for the employer; that line managers feel informed and empowered about how to support their staff; and that employees throughout the organisations are treated in a consistent manner on this issue. The benefits for employers include retention, employee performance, employee engagement and employer branding.”
To find out more information and a full employer guide to the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act, please visit: https://www.bliss.org.uk/research-campaigns/influencing-policy-and-working-in-parliament/neonatal-leave-and-pay-campaign