By April 2025 or even sooner, specific regions in the United Kingdom are poised to witness the implementation of the Neonatal Care Leave Act. This legislation will provide employees with up to 12 weeks’ paid leave if their child (aged under 28 days or under) requires a hospital stay of over seven days.
Under this act, both parents will be eligible to receive an extended period of up to 12 weeks of additional leave to care for and visit their newborns.
With impending changes expected in April 2025, it is essential for businesses to proactively prepare for the adoption of the Neonatal Care Leave Act. This readiness encompasses various aspects, from ensuring payroll compliance to revising company policies. The objective is to guarantee that employees are adequately supported during this transition and that operational processes can continue seamlessly.
Duration and Pay
Neonatal Care Leave
The entitlement to neonatal care leave, similar to maternity leave, is granted from the start of an individual’s employment. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of continuous leave. This leave can be taken as a single continuous block or multiple weeks and may be utilised after any applicable maternity or paternity leave period.
During neonatal care leave, eligible employees are expected to:
- Maintain their employment terms and conditions (except for remuneration) that would have applied had they not been on leave. They are also obliged to uphold any relevant work-related commitments.
- Retain the right to return to a job of a specific nature.
- Enjoy the same legal protection as parents who exercise other family-friendly entitlements, meaning they should not face any adverse treatment or discrimination for taking or expressing the intention to take neonatal care leave.
The specific notice requirements for neonatal care leave are yet to be determined.
Pay for Neonatal Care Leave
Eligible employees must meet specific employment criteria to qualify for neonatal care benefits, like other statutory family-related payments. They need to have maintained continuous employment for 26 weeks, concluding in the week just before the commencement of neonatal care.
In addition, they should have received regular weekly earnings for the preceding eight weeks, and these earnings must not fall below the prevailing lower earnings limit, which remains at £123, consistent with the threshold set on 6 April 2023 and unchanged from the previous threshold of £123 established on 6 April 2022.
These rights will be accessible to parents and those with caregiving responsibility or a familial connection to infants admitted to the hospital within the first 28 days of the child’s life. To qualify for these rights, the child must undergo an uninterrupted hospital stay of at least seven full days.
The term ‘Neonatal Care’ encompasses medical or palliative care initiated within the initial 28 days following the child’s birth, commencing from the day following the birth date.
A secondary legislation is necessary to implement the criteria, but the stipulations are anticipated to resemble the conditions established for other family-friendly entitlements closely.
What Does This Mean for HR?
Secondary regulations will furnish crucial specifics concerning aspects like the qualifications for eligibility and the prerequisites for giving notice. The government intends to operate the act within 18 months following royal approval. Until then, employers should maintain a reasonable approach when employees have a newborn in specialised neonatal care. Nevertheless, when secondary legislation is ratified, employers must promptly review their employee handbooks and contemplate offering additional training to managers for effectively handling neonatal care leave and compensation matters.
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