Leading baby charities and MPs condemn Government’s failure to publish review into parental leave for parents of premature and sick babies

Posted on June 07, 2019

Mum and dad looking at baby

Today, Bliss, The Smallest Things and TAMBA have joined Rachel Reeves MP and David Linden MP in sharing our growing concern about the Government’s failure to publish findings of their internal review of parental leave provisions for parents whose babies are born premature or sick.

The Government had been undertaking a review to look at the provisions currently offered to parents when their baby is born needing neonatal care. Bliss and other signatories to today’s letter contributed to this review, informing the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) of the significant negative impact current parental leave laws have on families at this vulnerable time.

Despite repeated assurances from BEIS and the Prime Minister during Prime Minister’s Question Time that the department would be happy to meet with charities and MPs again in order to discuss the review outcome, Kelly Tolhurst MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility recently stated on the record that there were ‘’no plans to publish the advice that makes up the review.’’

Bliss is campaigning for both parents to receive an extra paid week of leave for every week their baby spends in neonatal care. Current parental leave laws are rigid, and do not offer any flexibility or extra support to parents who find their world turned upside down by a neonatal experience. This is an emotionally and practically difficult time for families. Family finances are impacted, and many parents, dads and partners in particular, often have no choice but to return to work while their baby is still in hospital, limiting the amount of hands-on care they can provide to their baby.

A Bliss survey from earlier this year showed:

  • A quarter of fathers had to choose between taking time off when their baby was in neonatal care, or when their baby went home
  • 77 per cent of parents felt like their parental leave was not long enough, with this figure rising to 90 per cent of parents whose baby spent 10 or more weeks in neonatal care
  • Half of all parents would have liked to take more parental leave but couldn’t afford to take any longer off work
  • 24 per cent of dads said they were concerned for their job if they asked for more time off

Bliss Chief Executive, Caroline Lee-Davey said: “After a Bliss campaign to extend parental leave for parents of premature and sick babies, 3141 letters were sent by our supporters to their local MPs. Responses to these letters and our past communication with BEIS suggested that the findings of the review would be shared publically - a commitment also made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. It is extremely disappointing that this issue has since been kicked into the long-grass when one in seven parents in the UK will spend time on the neonatal unit with a poorly baby.

“Bliss calls on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to publish the advice that makes up the review. We strongly believe the review will show that the Government should give both dads and mums an extra week of statutory paid parental leave for every week their baby is in neonatal care, to ensure the best outcomes for babies and their families.”