UK Government commits to introduction of Statutory Neonatal Leave and Pay
On 16 March 2020, the UK Government published its welcomed response to a consultation outlining proposals for new entitlements to statutory neonatal leave and pay. Whilst the details need to be filled in this is a further showing of the government’s commitment to supporting parents in the workplace.
Neonatal care is care that a baby who is born prematurely or sick receives in hospital. This period is undoubtedly worrying and stressful for parents, who will want to be with their babies, however may have concerns about their ability to do so and manage their work commitments.
The government suggest that approximately 60,000 babies are born prematurely (before 37 weeks) each year in the UK, with in the region of two-thirds requiring neonatal care. In addition to this, the government suggest that approximately 60,000 babies who are born at full term are admitted to neonatal care each year.
At present, parents of children who require neonatal care must use a proportion of their maternity or paternity leave to spend time with their baby in hospital. Often the period of care required can be prolonged and therefore exceeds a father or partner’s right to two weeks’ paternity leave requiring use of unpaid leave and/or annual leave to be with mother/father and baby.
Within its response to the neonatal leave and pay element of the Good Work Plan consultation on proposals to support families, the government has acknowledged that current leave and pay entitlements are inadequate, and that they do not support parents in circumstances where their child requires neonatal care. The government has therefore committed to introduce legislation to provide eligible parents with statutory leave and pay in these circumstances.
The government has confirmed that following introduction of legislation, a maximum of 12 week’s statutory neonatal leave will be available to employees from their first day of employment. Statutory neonatal pay will be available to employees who meet relevant continuity of service and minimum earnings criteria. The government intends that parents of babies who are admitted into hospital as neonate (28 days old or less), will be eligible for statutory neonatal leave and pay, if the admission lasts for a continuous period of seven days or more.
Parents who qualify for statutory neonatal leave will also be protected from detriment and/or less favourable treatment arising from taking, or seeking to take, neonatal leave in the same way as those taking other relevant family-related leave.
This is a positive development for employees which follows the introduction of Parental Bereavement Leave on 6 April as the latest step in the government’s commitment to ‘making the UK the best place in the world to work’.
No date has been indicated for the introduction of these intended new entitlements to neonatal leave and pay, however government budget figures indicate that they will not be implemented until 2023. Further clarification and refinement of the rules surrounding neonatal leave and pay will need to be provided before then and to be contained within any bill through parliament.
The government’s response demonstrates a commitment to supporting parents of babies who need neonatal care and therefore we recommend that employer’s consider their own position in respect of staff who require neonatal leave to ensure that they are in a position to implement an appropriate policy when relevant legislation comes into effect.