The government has confirmed that a new statutory right to up to 12 weeks paid time off work for parents of children who have spent at least a week in neonatal care (i.e. care that a baby who is born prematurely, or sick, receives in hospital) will be introduced, as part of a range of measures to be introduced in response to the ‘Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families’ consultation.
How will the new right operate?
Following implementation, parents of children who have spent at least a week in neonatal care have a statutory right to paid time off from work. In most cases, parents that exercise this new right will also be able to return to the same job and will be protected from being subjected to any detriment and/or discrimination.
At the time of writing, the date when this legislation may come into force is currently unclear. Additional proposals include a new entitlement to carer’s leave and further statutory protections to help ensure that parents returning from family-related leave receive greater protection from redundancy.
Why is the new statutory right to neonatal leave being introduced?
Figures show that in the UK about 40,000 babies who are born prematurely each year with a further 60,000 babies who are born full term being admitted to neonatal care each year. The government acknowledges that parents who will naturally want to be with their babies during that time can sometimes experience concerns about their ability to do this effectively whilst keeping their jobs.
Currently, parents of a baby or babies in neonatal care have to rely on their existing statutory leave entitlements to enable them to be off work while the baby is in hospital. This means that parents spend a proportion of their maternity leave or paternity with the baby in hospital. Parents in these circumstances are then unable to spend sufficient time bonding with their child outside of a medical environment
Key proposed features of the new statutory right to neonatal leave
The government’s proposals include the following:
- parents of babies who are admitted into hospital as a neonate (28 days old or less) will be eligible for neonatal leave and pay if the admission lasts for a continuous period of seven days or more.
- neonatal leave will be available to an employee from the first day of employment in their job.
- entitlement to statutory neonatal pay will be available to those employees who have 26 weeks’ continuous service and earn more than the lower earnings limit (£120 from 6 April 2020), to provide both consistency and ease to employers who will administer the entitlement.
- employers will reclaim the statutory payment from the government by reducing their national insurance contributions. Large employers will be able to reclaim 92% whilst small employers (those who have paid £45,000 or less in gross national insurance the preceding tax year) will be able to recover 103%
- the total amount of statutory neonatal leave and pay available to parents will be capped at a maximum of 12 weeks.
- parents who qualify for neonatal leave will be afforded the same employment rights and protections as parents taking other relevant family-related leave. This means that they will be protected from detriment or discrimination arising from them taking, or seeking to take, neonatal leave.
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Disclaimer: the information set out above does not constitute legal advice and it is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given and neither the author or Harrington Law shall be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the information provided.