Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) bill
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) bill received Royal Assent on 24 May 2023 and will become law. This important Act will affect businesses in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when it comes into force in April 2025.
The aim of the Act is to make it easier for employees to obtain neonatal leave and care pay. The leave and pay benefits detailed in the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) bill are in addition to maternity and paternity leave.
Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) bill – Key points
- Provides up to 12 weeks’ paid leave for parents of babies needing neonatal care
- Minimum entitlement of 1 week
- Paid leave is in addition to other entitlements (e.g. Maternity and paternity leave)
- It is a day 1 right and only available to employees
- Applicable to parents of babies admitted to hospital up to 28 days of age and who continuously stay in hospital for 7 days or more
- Statutory rate of pay applies while on neonatal leave providing the employee has worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks
- Neonatal care leave must be taken in the first 68 weeks of the baby’s birth
- New Regulations required before the Act comes into force in April 2025
The need for change
Neonatal care (simply hospital care for newborn babies) is not uncommon in the UK. According to NHS England, 1600 babies are born each day – that’s a new edition to the UK population every 54 seconds! Every year, more than 90,000 babies have to be cared for in neonatal units*. This equates to 1 in 7 UK babies admitted to a neonatal unit each year.
While for many newborn babies the stay in a neonatal unit is short, those born prematurely can spend weeks in hospital. Every year around 58,000 babies* are born prematurely in the UK. A baby born between 28 and 31 weeks will stay an average of 44 days in hospital.
1 in 13 UK babies is born prematurely*
Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) bill more information
The amount of neonatal leave and pay will be determined by the length of time their baby receives neonatal care. It’s important to remember that the care has to be for 7 continuous days before the baby is 28 days old.
While the regulations will clarify who exactly is eligible to receive these benefits, it seems sensible to assume that the criteria will be the same as for shared parental or paternity leave. So, that’s the baby’s parents, married to the baby’s parent or having responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
Further clarification is also due regarding the evidence that will need to be provided and any notice period. What is clear is employers must not penalise an employee who takes neonatal care leave once the law is brought into force.
Employers should start preparing
While April 2025 may seem a long way off, now is the time for employers to consider how their business may be affected. New parents may be away from work for longer. It is also a timely reminder that eligible employees will be going through an incredibly emotional time. Employers need to be considerate and assist as much as possible. Clear polices should be put in place and HR personnel trained appropriately. (If you require assistance, Blossom HR can help.)
The forthcoming regulations will also clarify any increase in redundancy protection for those on neonatal care leave and pay. Some forward thinking employers have already implemented a neonatal leave and pay policy. There is much to consider and be aware of. The medical conditions of an employee’s baby are a private matter. The wishes of the employee are of paramount importance, so great care should be taken when discussing an individual case.
Another major consideration is the physical and mental toll spending time in a neonatal unit will have on a parent. Employers should take this into account when the employee returns to work. Their behaviour and performance may change markedly. A new role or a more flexible working pattern may need to be offered.
If you have any questions regarding the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) bill, please get in touch. You can benefit from a complimentary, 30 minute consultation.