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Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, the Neonatal Care Act will be introduced to support employees who have a newborn baby receiving palliative or medical care.

This means that it will be easier for employees to be granted Neonatal Leave and Neonatal Care Pay to look after their babies. The Neonatal Care Act received Royal Assent on 24 May 2023, and it is scheduled to come into force in April 2025.

What will employees be entitled to?

It is anticipated that employees who qualify for neonatal care will be offered the additional entitlement if their baby needs medical or palliative care within 28 days of the birth.

For employees with a sick or premature newborn baby, it will potentially offer the following additional rights:

  1. Entitlement of up to 12 weeks of extra leave
  2. Entitlement to statutory pay during this leave period

It is anticipated that the leave and pay will cover both parents, which means that they could both be entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

This will be in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity, paternity and shared parental leave.   Employees may also be entitled to a statutory pay allowance during the leave.

What’s the criteria for neonatal care leave?

Employees may need to supply evidence to their employer before being deemed eligible. To qualify, employees need to have a premature or sick baby receiving medical or palliative care and:

If possible, employees must let their employers know that they wish to take neonatal care leave before the intended date of the leave.

All employees will be eligible for neonatal care leave from day one of their employment.

Eligibility criteria will be similar to paternity or shared parental leave, with employees needing to have a parental or other close personal relationship with the baby.

What pay will employees on neonatal care leave be entitled to?

We are awaiting further guidance on whether or not and, in what circumstances  employers can refuse neonatal leave, but employers will need to manage the legal requirements alongside their business needs.

As this will be a sensitive time, employers should be considerate towards the parents, ensuring that the process is dealt with as efficiently as possible. Being mindful of the employee’s well-being is paramount, and employers should ensure that they don’t fall foul of any discrimination laws during the process.

The new legislation will only affect England, Scotland and Wales. So businesses in these countries will have until April 2025 to make sure they’re ready.

Some businesses are already considering setting up their policies early. If you haven’t done this yet, it’s worth getting advice from an employment law specialist who can help you to create a robust policy for your organisation.

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