Supporting a new neonatal leave and pay law for parents

As parents of babies admitted to neonatal care juggle concern for their newborn’s health with worry for their jobs and income, we’re delighted to see a Neonatal Leave & Pay Bill introduced in Parliament today (15 June 2022) by Stuart McDonald MP.

If the Bill becomes law, parents and carers of babies admitted to neonatal care will receive extra paid time off work, giving them the emotional and financial support they need during what can be a very difficult time. 

Tommy’s is working to make pregnancy and birth safer, but more than 60,000 premature babies are born each year in the UK and a total of more than 100,000 premature and sick babies are admitted into neonatal units each year. There is currently no allowance for their parents, who can spend weeks or months in hospital before going home. 

Neonatal leave and pay was promised in the Government’s March 2020 Budget after years of campaigning by charity The Smallest Things. The Government pledged to give parents statutory paid leave for every week their baby remained in neonatal care up to a maximum of 12 weeks.  

We’re joining The Smallest Things and other charities in urging the Government to take the new Neonatal Leave & Pay Bill forward to support all families with babies in neonatal care as soon as possible. 

We know that many parents find the strain of coping after premature birth overwhelming.  

Having a sudden, difficult or traumatic birth or spending a lot of time in a neonatal unit is something most parents don’t expect and it can be very difficult. Anxiety and PTSD are common, and hospital records show that a third of mums and almost two-fifths of dads are diagnosed with postnatal depression after their babies were born too soon. 

This research backed the 2021 launch of our My Prem Baby app for mums, dads and partners, so they can track their baby through pregnancy to after birth and get expert guidance at every step, including support for their own mental health and wellbeing. Our campaign last year was designed to raise awareness around the difficulties premature babies and their parents can face. 

Tommy’s midwife Sophie says:

“Many parents find they have to return to work while their baby is still in hospital and many mothers of premature and unwell babies can spend a significant portion of their maternity leave in the neonatal unit. Having to return to day-to-day life or the workplace because you can’t take time off only makes a difficult time even worse.  

“Parents shouldn’t have to make the choice between losing income and being able to focus on their baby’s care and own wellbeing when it’s needed most. Changing the law to give parents the safety net they need will make a huge difference.”