neonatal care

What is the Neonatal Care Bill?

In May of this year (2023), the Neonatal Care Bill received royal assent and was passed into law. As the name suggests, it is intended to make additional provisions for those in work with a responsibility for children who are receiving neonatal care. Although the rights given by this legislation will only come into force in April 2025, it’s important for both individuals and organisations to be aware of the effect it will have.

Below we delve into the changes to be brought about by the Neonatal Care Bill, along with what it will mean for employees and employers.

Background to the bill

There has been much anticipation surrounding the Neonatal Care Leave and Pay Bill. No one wants to experience the distress of having to admit their child to a hospital neonatal care unit and this is only worsened when individuals can’t take extra time off work. In 2019, a government consultation was held on reforming parental leave and pay. Accommodations for neonatal care leave and pay was one of the three key areas discussed, along with flexible working and parental leave/pay.

It was then confirmed in the 2020 budget that plans for neonatal care support would be going ahead in the form of paid leave. Where many believed that this would manifest in an Employment Bill, the government instead gave their support to a Private Members’ Bill. This is the Neonatal Care Bill, which has only recently received royal assent.

mum and baby

What’s included in the Neonatal Care Bill?

The primary consideration of the bill is that it gives parents the option to up to 12 weeks paid leave when their baby is receiving neonatal care. This is in addition to any other parental leave they are entitled to take, such as maternity leave and paternity leave. As with these types of leave, the right to statutory neonatal care pay requires 6 months of employment with average weekly earnings of at least £123.



The above provision is only given to employees who prove they are eligible. Eligibility criteria is in place to ensure the right individuals are benefitting from the legislation. Although much of the criteria is due to be set out within the legislation, it is expected to include proof of care responsibility (similar to maternity leave and care eligibility). It is also likely that the law will follow the definition of neonatal care as at least seven days of medical care given to a baby within the first 4 weeks after their birth.

It’s important to note these requirements may change in the run up to the bill taking effect. As such, we recommend all employers and especially employees planning on having a baby monitor any updates on the bill.


Important considerations for employers

Firstly, a feature of all statutory leave entitlements is that employers are not able to penalise an employee for taking neonatal care leave (NCL). As such, any dismissal that references it in its reasoning will be deemed unfair. Read What is unfair dismissal and how does it differ from fair dismissal for more information. In addition, employers should prepare for the new regulations in the following areas.

Employers should not expect employees to give as much notice for taking leave due to neonatal care as they would for other parental leave. This is because the individual, or individuals, are likely to be under extreme emotional distress. The experts at Employment Law Services Ltd expect the notice requirements of the bill to reflect this.

Importantly, employees will always take neonatal care leave after other forms of parental leave. This does not mean maternity or paternity leave can be restarted if it is curtailed to take NCL. Although an employee may choose to curtail their maternity leave at the point maternity pay ends (39 weeks) and then move to statutory neonatal care pay. This is so they can access 51 total weeks of paid parental leave.

Employers should be mindful that the employee could be suffering from trauma associated with the birth or hospital treatment. The physical and mental effects could in turn impact their attitude to work, productivity, and impact on the team. As a result, HR policies and resources should be in place to support those who need to NCL.

The bill brief currently states that the new regulations could feature provisions for alternative employment to be offered where eligible employees are made redundant. If confirmed, this would grant a priority status to those on NCL.

Professional legal advice for employees

Our professional employment law practitioners possess the legal knowledge and expertise to offer bespoke advice in relation to new laws. This enables Employment Law Services (ELS) LTD to get the best outcomes for our clients regardless of how they will be affected. We take the time to determine what your problem is and devise a course of action that best meets your needs. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our employment law specialists.