Tens of thousands of parents with sick babies stand to benefit from ground-breaking new entitlement

Posted on May 24, 2023


Today the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill has been given Royal Assent and is now law.

After many years of campaigning from Bliss, the UK’s leading charity for babies born premature and sick, The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act, is expected to be implemented in April 2025.

For the first time, families will have a statutory entitlement to paid leave from work if their baby needs neonatal care, giving employed parents a day one right to leave from work if their baby receives neonatal care for more than seven continuous days, before the baby reaches 28 days of life.

The length of leave and statutory neonatal pay for employed parents will be based on how long their baby receives neonatal care, up to 12 weeks.

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss, said: “After so many years of campaigning, we are absolutely thrilled to see neonatal leave and pay finally become law. This will make a huge difference to around 60,000 parents every year, and to their babies. It will relieve the additional stress of having to juggle looking after a critically ill baby in hospital with work, ease some of the financial pressure and, by allowing parents to be more involved in their baby’s care, improve the health outcomes of premature and sick babies."

“For many families the inflexibility of the current parental leave system exacerbates the trauma that parents experience when their baby is admitted to neonatal care. This law has the potential to transform the experience of both parents and employers.”

However, almost 120,000 parents of babies needing neonatal care in the UK from now until April 2025 will miss out due to the current timeframe for implementation given by the government. Bliss is pushing for the entitlement to be made available as soon as possible for all neonatal families.

Caroline Lee-Davey added: "There has been cross-party support for this new law, and Government support and political will has now made it a reality. But we know for many parents with critically ill babies in hospital right now today will be bittersweet. That’s why we’re urging the Government to go one step further and bring forward the implementation date so families can start receiving this vital support as soon as possible.’’

Recent Bliss research found that in around 70 per cent of families with a significant neonatal stay, at least one parent returned to work while their baby or babies were still in hospital.

Providing additional paid leave to employees if their baby is in neonatal care benefits parents’ mental health and wellbeing and can also contribute to better outcomes for their baby long term.

Chris Henfield’s son Teddy was born at 30 weeks and received five weeks of neonatal care in three different neonatal units. Having paid neonatal leave would have allowed Chris to stay by Teddy’s side with his wife, Phili, throughout his stay in hospital without worrying about not being paid.

Henfield said: “I had concerns about losing income if I took unpaid leave, so I was preparing to make the unenviable choice between being there for my family and having no money coming in or having to work and not being able to care for Teddy and support Phili. Unfortunately I had to go back to work when Teddy was seven weeks old as I had no other options”.

With support from Bliss, the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill was introduced to Parliament in June 2022 by Stuart McDonald MP as a Private Member’s Bill and sponsored through the Lords by The Baroness Wyld.