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by Louise Wilson
15 June 2022
SNP MP tables bill to establish neonatal leave scheme

SNP MP tables bill to establish neonatal leave scheme

An SNP MP is to table a bill to establish extended paid leave for the parents of premature and sick babies.

Stuart McDonald, who last month secured the top spot in the private member’s bill (PMB) ballot, said the cost-of-living crisis meant it was more important than ever to put such measures in place.

The Neonatal Leave and Pay Bill is supported by baby charity Bliss.

Research conducted by the charity found one in four families had to borrow money or went into debt because they had been unable to go into work while their baby was sick in hospital.

McDonald said: “No parent should have to choose between being with their premature or sick baby in neonatal care and having to go back to work to earn a living.

“With the cost of living soaring, it is more important than ever that we secure an urgent change in the law so that parents of babies in neonatal care get the paid leave and support they need at an incredibly challenging time.”

His bill would introduce a new entitlement over and above maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay if a baby has had to spend seven or more consecutive days in hospital in their first four weeks of life.

This leave and pay would be available for up to 12 weeks.

Bliss chief executive Caroline Lee-Davey said the legislation would not only support families, but help employers who want to better support staff at such a difficult time.

She said: “Parents being involved in caregiving is vital - babies have the best outcomes when their parents can deliver hands-on care, and no parent should have to choose between work or being by their sick baby’s side.”

Having topped the PMB ballot, McDonald’s bill is guaranteed a debate in the Commons.

The vast majority of PMBs fail due to a lack of support from the sitting government.

However, the UK Government has previously announced support for such a policy. In the 2020 Budget, it said it would introduce neonatal leave at a rate of £160 per week for up to 12 weeks.

And in a debate on the subject in February this year, business minister Paul Scully confirmed: “Our planned neonatal leave and pay entitlement will allow parents to take additional time off work in circumstances where their child is admitted to neonatal care, ensuring that they are no longer in the incredibly difficult position of having to choose between risking their job and spending much-needed time with their baby.”

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