Parliamentary Committee backs Bliss’ call for emergency Neonatal Leave and Pay and rapid COVID-19 testing

Posted on July 06, 2020

The House of Commons' Petitions Committee has made a series of recommendations to the Government following their inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on maternity and parental leave, including that Neonatal Leave and Pay should be piloted and that parents required to self-isolate should have access to rapid COVID-19 testing.

Bliss provided evidence to the Committee, raising the wide-ranging impact of the pandemic on families whose baby or babies have been born needing neonatal care. We highlighted the key asks from our Parents Aren’t Visitors campaign and shared family experiences, including the impact of parental separation, increased financial pressures and job insecurity and heightened levels of stress and anxiety being reported by parents during this time.

The Committee report recommends the Government should:

  • Pilot Neonatal Leave and Pay for those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, and if this is successful introduce the full scheme more quickly than planned (currently 2023).
  • Prioritise rapid testing for parents of babies in neonatal care, to reduce the length of unnecessary separation. If a parent is suspected to have COVID-19 or has been in contact with someone expected to have COVID-19 they will need to self-isolate for up to 14 days. A negative test can reduce this separation significantly.
  • Reconsider their decision not to extend parental leave and pay for families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Fund and provide additional professional mental health support for this group of parents and their children.

Nearly 4,000 people have signed our Parents Aren’t Visitors petition already. Add your name now and help us call on the Government to make these recommendations a reality.

The inquiry follows a petition by James Zammit-Garcia and Jessie Zammit which called for maternity leave to be extended by three months in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following an unprecedented volume of responses from new parents, the Inquiry looked at a range of issues including the impact of COVID-19 on: neonatal care, childcare settings, maternity rights and employment protections and Adoption Leave and Pay.

Josie Anderson, Bliss’ Campaigns and Policy Manager who gave evidence to the Inquiry, said ‘’Around 300 babies will be admitted to neonatal care every day during the pandemic. We welcome the Petition Committee’s report and their recommendations that the Government should urgently provide extra support to parents of babies who have had a neonatal experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘’We are extremely disappointed the Government has so far refused to provide any additional support to families who are struggling to cope - emotionally, practically and financially - with the enormity of having a very sick baby during a pandemic.

“For many parents, the pandemic has robbed them of the opportunity to be with their baby, to parent together, and to receive support from their family and friends as they go through one of the most challenging experiences of their lives. Many are also experiencing increased financial insecurity and are having to juggle childcare and home-schooling of older children.

‘’We urge the Government to take on board the sobering findings laid bare in this report and call on them to act swiftly to implement the Committee’s recommendations.”

There is still time to show the Government how important it is to act now for parents on neonatal units during the COVID-19 outbreak by signing our petition, which you can find here.