Extended paid leave for parents of premature babies
12 August 2022

Extended paid leave for parents of premature babies

The UK government’s 2020 Budget promised extra paid leave for mothers and fathers of premature babies

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Maryam Munir

Maryam Munir

Maryam Munir worked as a content marketing writer at Ciphr from 2019 to 2021.

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Employment law Pay benefits and reward

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The UK government’s 2020 Budget promised extra paid leave for mothers and fathers of premature babies

In the UK an estimated 40,000 children spend more than a week in neonatal care each year. The government is seeking to alleviate the stress of caring for a premature baby by introducing extra paid paternity and maternity leave (called ‘neonatal pay and leave’).

What are employees entitled to?

Parents of premature babies will be able to claim statutory paid leave of around £160 for every week their child is in neonatal care, for a maximum of 12 weeks. This paid leave will be provided in addition to the standard maternity or paternity allowance, and the government would “incur almost of all of the cost,” said Kemi Badenoch, exchequer secretary to the Treasury.

At the moment, parents of premature children are not entitled to any extra leave, despite most of their maternity or paternity leave being spent in the hospital.

The extra leave is part of the government’s manifesto pledge to introduce a new neonatal care policy, and will be provided in addition to paid parental bereavement leave, which is being introduced on 6 April 2020.

The paid parental bereavement leave – known as Jack’s Law – applies to parents, guardians, and anyone who has an assumed parental responsibility, who suffers the loss of a child under the age of 18.

How can this additional leave make a difference?

Under current law, maternity and paternity leave begins the day after birth, even if a baby is born early. It’s hoped the extra paid leave will help to relieve the financial stress that new parents are under, and give them more time with their new baby once they leave hospital.

Writing in The Times , Badenoch also added that the policy has the potential create “a more supportive workplace environment for employees.” An environment which shows kindness and compassion, and listens to what employees need, is useful for employers because it boosts staff loyalty and retention.

Catriona Ogilvy, founder and chair of the charity The Smallest Things, which raises awareness of premature births and the needs of families, welcomed the announcement.  Her campaign for extended parental leave was backed by over 350,000 people.

“As parents who have spent the first days, weeks or months of our children’s lives in a neonatal intensive care unit, we are over the moon that the worry of work and pay will be eased for the incubator-watchers who follow in our footsteps,” she said.

What actions should employers and HR professionals take?

At the time of publication, the UK government has not confirmed when the paid leave entitlement will come into effect. Employers and HR professionals should stay up to date with any developments, particularly the ‘effective from’ date. You should consider updating (or creating) your organisation’s parental leave policy to reflect the change, and how you will stay in contact with parents of premature babies during this difficult time.