Historic Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill introduced by MP in Parliament

Posted on June 15, 2022


Today Stuart McDonald will be introducing a bill to give employed parents extra paid time off work when their baby is in neonatal care.

Stuart McDonald, SNP MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, will introduce a historic Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill today as his Private Member’s Bill in Parliament.

Bliss mobilised over 30 charities, unions and professional bodies last month to urge MPs to introduce the long-standing government commitment to neonatal leave and pay. This entitlement will support tens of thousands of families across Scotland, Wales and England with a baby in neonatal care every year.

Stuart, who topped this year’s Private Member’s Bill Ballot, said, “No parent should have to choose between being with their premature or sick baby in neonatal care and having to go back to work to earn a living.

"With the cost of living soaring, it is more important than ever that we secure an urgent change in the law so that parents of babies in neonatal care get the paid leave and support they need at an incredibly challenging time.

"I'm delighted to bring forward this bill with the backing of Bliss and families across Scotland and the UK. I hope to secure the backing of the UK Government and MPs, so we can get this crucial legislation passed as soon as possible."

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The lack of extra maternity and paternity leave entitlement when a baby is born premature or sick means that many parents have to return to work while their babies are in hospital. With only two weeks of paternity leave available, many fathers and non-birthing parents return to work long before their babies are well enough to go home.

Tom’s son Joseph was born in August 2018, 101 days early, and spent just over 15 weeks in hospital receiving neonatal care. Tom said: “I felt as though I missed out on being a part of any key decisions that had to be made immediately as part of Joseph’s care. I also missed the two weeks of actual paternity leave at home where you bond with your baby - mine had been spent on the NICU. Financially, even if my employer had offered it, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to take time off work unpaid.”

Bliss Chief Executive, Caroline Lee-Davey said: “We are thrilled that Stuart is introducing the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill as his Private Member’s Bill. The current law doesn’t work for families, but it also doesn’t work for employers who find it hard to support their staff when their worlds are turned upside down by neonatal care.

“Parents being involved in caregiving is vital - babies have the best outcomes when their parents can deliver hands-on care, and no parent should have to choose between work or being by their sick baby’s side. We look forward to working with Stuart and colleagues across parliament to ensure that this Bill becomes law.”

Recent Bliss research found that one in four families surveyed had to borrow money or increase their debt due to their baby’s neonatal stay. As household and living costs are rising, the pressure on families with a sick baby in hospital is increasing, making it even more important that MPs take action now.

Catriona Ogilvy is a parent to premature boys and founded The Smallest Things charity, which supported Bliss’ call last month. She said, “As a charity run entirely by parents who have had children born prematurely, The Smallest Things has campaigned for many years for this change. In introducing his Neonatal Leave and Pay Bill Stuart McDonald MP carries the wishes of more than 357,000 parents and supporters who signed our petition to extend parental leave for families of premature babies.

Over a number of years parents have bravely shared their stories and in doing so have shone a light on the realities of neonatal care. I know how traumatic and distressing visiting your premature baby in hospital can be, compounded by the added worry of work and pay, and know how much this change will mean to families in the future.

This Bill will give families the emotional and financial support they need at a time of great stress, returning stolen time to be able to bond with their babies and to begin to recover from the trauma of neonatal care themselves.”