The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill is a private member’s bill that would create new statutory entitlements to leave and pay for employees with responsibility for a baby receiving neonatal care.

Under the bill, neonatal leave would become a ‘day one’ right and would apply to parents whose children spent at least one week in neonatal care. The maximum entitlement to this leave would be set by regulations but would be one week at a minimum. It would have to be taken within a minimum of 68 weeks starting from the date of the child’s birth.

The right to neonatal care pay during periods of related leave (for example maternity, paternity or adoption leave) would be available to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and whose earnings were above the lower earnings limit for national insurance. Regulations would set out the level and duration of pay, but it would be able to be claimed for at least 12 weeks.

These new entitlements would apply in England, Scotland and Wales. They would not apply in Northern Ireland as employment law is devolved. However, the bill would extend to the whole of the UK.

In recent years, charities and politicians have called for a statutory entitlement to leave and pay for parents whose children are receiving neonatal care. The government has previously consulted on the topic and committed to legislating on the issue but has not introduced a bill in either House of Parliament. However, the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has supplied explanatory notes, a delegated powers memorandum and an impact assessment for the current bill.

The bill was sponsored in the House of Commons by Stuart McDonald (SNP MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East). It completed its stages in the Commons on 20 January 2023. Four amendments were made to the bill at committee stage; these received cross-party support and were added without division. Overall, the bill received support from across the House, including from the government, at every stage. It has also been supported by charities, including Bliss, a charity for premature and sick babies.

The bill received its first reading in the House of Lords on 23 January 2023. It is sponsored by Baroness Wyld (Conservative) and is scheduled to have its second reading on 24 March 2023.

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