Government backs Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill

It is estimated that more than 50,000 babies a year spend more than one week in neonatal care after birth. This is often a difficult time for parents who often have to use their existing leave entitlement, take unpaid leave or return back to work whilst their baby is still in hospital.

In response to this reality, on 15 July 2022, the government announced that it was backing the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill (“the Bill”) – a Private Members’ Bill. The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill would introduce two new rights: neonatal care leave and statutory neonatal care pay.

Whilst the details of how the Bill is to operate is yet to be confirmed, the following are expected to be implemented: –

  • The Bill will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave
  • It would apply to parents of children who spend at least one week in neonatal care.
  • The leave period would be at least one week and should be taken within 68 weeks starting from the date of the child’s birth.
  • The right to neonatal leave would be a day one right, available to all employees.
  • The right to neonatal care pay would be available to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and whose weekly earnings are at or above the lower earnings limit (currently £123 per week for 2022-23).

The Bill, however, will need to be approved by the House of Lords before it becomes law. If approved, we may still have to wait until 2024 or 2025 for this entitlement to be introduced, as HM Revenue & Customs and commercial payroll providers usually require 18 months’ notice to implement changes which enable employers to administer new statutory payments.

The new rights would apply to England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland where employment law is a devolved matter.

If the House of Lords approve the Bill, then employers will need to consider implementing a new policy within their business to confirm an employee’s neonatal care leave and pay entitlement and the process for employees to notify the employer that they wish to exercise their right to take neonatal care leave.

If you would like us to assist you with doing so by advising on or reviewing your contracts, please email our employment team and we will be happy to help.

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