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New rights for parents of premature babies

A couple with their newborn baby in a hospital ward. The mother, laying in bed holds the baby in her arms, while the father leans over them. Both parents are smiling

New legislation for parents of premature babies will enable them to take more paid time off to be with their newborns in hospital, instead of having to return to work too soon, due to money worries.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave, so that they can spend more time with their baby at what is a hugely stressful time.

The new law will apply to working parents of babies admitted to hospital up to the age of 28 days who have a continuous stay in hospital of seven days or more.  The new law is expected to be implemented from April 2025.

Campaigning charity, The Smallest Things has been fighting for change for eight years and have welcomed the new law, whilst urging the government to bring the change in earlier to avoid 120,000 parents missing out.

Catriona Ogilvy, Founder of The Smallest Things, said:

“This new legislation will mean so much to families, giving them the emotional and financial support they need at a time of great stress and trauma. No parent should be sitting next to an incubator or neonatal cot worrying about work and pay. That is why this news will be extremely difficult for families in neonatal care right now and in the near future, who will not be able to access the new entitlements. We are urging the government to rethink the current implementation timeline and asking them to bring in this crucial entitlement with the urgency it needs.”

The Smallest Things is asking family-friendly employers to go beyond the new statutory entitlements and not to wait to offer crucial support to their employees. By signing up to the charity’s Employer with Heart Charter 2.0, employers agree to extend paid leave for parents of premature babies, giving them the time they need to recover from trauma and to bond with their baby without the worry of work and pay. To date, 62 employers have already been awarded the Employer with Heart charter mark, including Santander, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Sony Music.

Photo: The Smallest Things