HR Expert: HR Expert: Neonatal Leave
My client has asked me about a new government consultation which focuses on introducing neonatal leave for working parents. What can you tell me about this?

In the lead up to her final days in Downing Street former Prime Minister Theresa May announced a host of public consultations, with one in particular focusing on improving the rights available to working parents.

As your client has identified, arguably the key take-away from this consultation is the proposed introduction of neonatal leave. The government acknowledged that parents of children who are born prematurely, or that experience difficulties during birth, can suffer significant challenges, particularly in cases where the child requires neonatal care for a number of weeks or months.

Parents can often find themselves spending a significant amount of maternity or paternity leave at the hospital whilst the child undergoes neonatal care, placing them at a disadvantage compared to other individuals who are able to dedicate a greater amount of this leave at home caring for their child.

In response the government have suggested providing 1 weeks’ neonatal leave and pay to employees for every week their child is in neonatal care, up to an unspecified maximum number of weeks. This would apply to parents of children who had spent a minimum of 2 continuous weeks in neonatal care immediately after birth.

The intention is that this leave will be added on to the end of a period of maternity or paternity leave, allowing employees to recoup any time they spent with their child in hospital following the birth. Having said this, there is no guarantee that this proposal will be enshrined in law and respondents are being asked to give their opinion on issues such as eligibility, notice requirements and whether the entitlement to neonatal leave should be capped.

Either way, the move to consult on neonatal leave is representative of the efforts the government are placing into improving protections for parents at work, including the upcoming ability to claim parental bereavement leave and pay that will be available in April 2020.

Whilst it remains to be seen how the new Prime Minister will responds to these proposals submitted by his predecessor, your client should keep a close eye on these developments. If neonatal leave and pay is introduced then your client should be prepared to amend their existing policies and business practices accordingly in order to remain compliant and provide staff with their statutory entitlements.

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