Charities, unions and professional bodies come together to urge Government to speed up implementation of support for families

Posted on May 24, 2023

BLISS 143 cro

Bliss, alongside 22 other charities, unions, and professional bodies have written to the Treasury and Department for Business and Trade calling on Ministers to implement the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act as quickly as possible. The Bill passed into law on Wednesday 24th May 2023, promising a step-change in support for employed parents with a baby in neonatal care, but the first parents to receive extra paid leave from work will not be able to claim until April 2025.

Dear Minister Atkins and Minister Hollinrake,

As a group of organisations including charities and trade unions supporting parents who will benefit from the new entitlement to Neonatal Care Leave and Pay and professional bodies representing staff working in neonatal settings we are writing to urge you to reconsider the planned implementation timeline for the new statutory entitlement to paid leave when a baby or babies is in hospital.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act will provide essential support to families with a baby or babies in hospital soon after birth, and we are delighted that the Government has passed this essential legislation, fulfilling its 2020 budget commitment to parents of babies born premature or sick. This legislation will implement a much-needed new entitlement to statutory leave and pay for parents if their baby is admitted to hospital for more than 1 week before they reach 28 days of life.

Almost 60,000 working parents will benefit from this new entitlement every year – something that we have campaigned for over many years. However, this news will be extremely challenging for families with a baby or babies who is critically ill in hospital right now, and for the approximately 120,000 parents who will miss out on this support between now and the expected April 2025 implementation date.

Under the current parental leave system, thousands of employed parents go without proper support every month when their baby or babies is in neonatal care, which makes it imperative that the new entitlement should be implemented as swiftly as possible. As you know, and as the Government has acknowledged, the reasons for implementing this entitlement are myriad and pressing.

Without access to additional time off when a baby or babies is hospitalised after birth, fathers and non-birthing parents who are only entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave are routinely excluded from their baby or babies care by the parental leave system, and often have no choice but to return to work while their baby or babies are still desperately ill in hospital. Women taking maternity leave use up much of their entitlement before their babies are discharged home, meaning they are often forced to return to work before they and their baby or babies are ready due to the financial pressure.

We understand that HMRC will need time to implement the new entitlement and that statutory instruments are required before implementation. But the reasons for this new entitlement will not stop for parents going through this over the next two years. Funding for this entitlement was identified in the 2020 budget to start in 2023 which will now not be spent on supporting families in neonatal care. We would urge you to look at how this money can be used to speed up implementation at HMRC.

We believe that a two-year implementation timeline is too long for a statutory entitlement that is not dissimilar to existing maternity and paternity rights, or recently introduced parental bereavement leave and pay entitlements which were brought in from April 2020. Throughout the pandemic we saw how quickly Government can move to support employees when needed, and we want to urge you to consider the many thousands of parents currently returning to work while their baby or babies is critically ill, who will miss out on the support they need because of this long implementation timeline.

We want to encourage you to look at any possible options to speed up implementation of any part of the Bill, to ensure that parents going through this extremely difficult journey during the next two years can be supported.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive, Bliss

Marcus Green, CEO, Action on Pre-Eclampsia

Eleri Adams, President, British Association of Perinatal Medicine

Jaskiran Gill, Policy and Impact Lead, Best Beginnings

David Badcock, CEO, Borne

Kieran Anders, Operations Manager, Dad Matters UK

Samantha Johnson, CEO, ECHO UK

Jane Plumb, Chief Executive, Group B Strep Support

Jenny Ward, Chief Executive, The Lullaby Trust

Cheryl Titherly, Manager, Neonatal Nurses Association

Sarah Land, Charity Manager and Co-Founder, Peeps

Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed

Kate Mulley, Director of Research, Education & Policy, Sands

Kate Boyle, Chair, Scottish Neonatal Nurses Association

Zillah Bingley, CEO, Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity

Jane Featherstone, Chief Executive, The Sick Children's Trust

Catriona Ogilvy, Founder & Chair, The Smallest Things

Kelly Blakeney, Head of Tiny Lives

Jon Arnold, Chief Executive, Tiny Tickers

Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive, Together for Short Lives

Shauna Leven, Chief Executive, Twins Trust

Josie Irwin, Head of the Equality Unit, UNISON

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive, Working Families