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The Sarah Buxton blog


Newsflash: new employment rights compensate for neonatal care

Two new bills which seek to shape policy around the time off and pay available to parents of neonatal babies have gained Royal Assent. Here is everything you need to know about them, what they could mean for your practice, and the steps you can take to support any employees experiencing this testing situation.

Why is this legislation being introduced?

For around nine years, many parents, key opinion leaders, and charitable organisations have called on the government to address allowances given to parents caring for babies in neonatal care. They have argued that the limited maternity and paternity leave available - which officially begins once a child is born - does not compensate for children born prematurely and that there should be fair pay for any additional leave parents might need.

In these circumstances, parents often spend the first few days, weeks - or even months - of their child’s life in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) rather than settling into life at home. Most of this time is fraught with anxiety rather than joy.

In fact, 40% of NICU mothers develop postnatal depression after the experience, and over half experience anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Many argue that the maternity and paternity leave granted to parents of neonatal babies deprives them of the bonding experience that can only begin once they're healthy.

For these reasons, the government has introduced two new bills: the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill and the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill.

What do the bills entail?

The Protection from Redundancy Bill will ensure parents face no risk of redundancy during pregnancy and for an allotted time upon their return to work. Currently, these protections only extend to maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave.

In addition to the standard allotted maternity and paternity leave, the new Neonatal Care Bill will grant parents of neonatal babies an additional 12 weeks with statutory neonatal pay to compensate for time spent in the NICU and caring for their new child at home.

Not all parents will receive the full additional leave and pay - this will depend on the time their baby has spent in neonatal care and will only apply if they receive neonatal care for more than seven days before they reach 28 days old.

The bills have just gained Royal Assent and will become law. The government must now introduce secondary legislation to implement these bills, although the timeline around this is yet to be determined.

What steps can you take as an employer?

Before these bills are formally introduced, there are steps you can take as an employer to protect staff members going through this experience. If you provide extensive support for these team members, they are less likely to leave their job due to pressure and anxiety, which benefits your practice in the long term.

You can create your neonatal parent policy outlining the support you’ll provide to employees in this situation - this should also extend to those dealing with the illness of an older child, which can be equally as testing and time-consuming. Consider the amount of paid or unpaid leave you would like to include and whether you want to consider flexible working arrangements where possible.

Once you've established this policy, let your employees know that it exists - if they feel supported by their workplace in this testing situation, it may make it a little easier.

Need support? Get in touch

If you would like advice about creating a neonatal parent policy that’s right for your practice or you need help navigating this new legislation, please set up a call.

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