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MP introduces Bill to establish paid leave for parents of premature or sick babies

A new Bill to establish extended paid leave for parents of premature and sick babies will be debated in Parliament next month.

SNP MP Stuart McDonald’s Neonatal Leave and Pay Bill was selected in the Private Members’ Bill ballot earlier this week, and seeks to ensure that parents of sick and premature babies are able to spend time with their baby rather than being forced to return to work due to financial constraints.

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”.

“I’m delighted to bring forward this bill with the backing of Bliss and families across Scotland and the UK. I hope to secure the backing of the UK Government and MPs, so we can get this crucial legislation passed as soon as possible”.

“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”.

The Bill will introduce additional entitlements beyond what is already provided through maternity, paternity and adoption leave. If a baby has to spend seven or more days, consecutively, in hospital during the first four weeks after birth, the parents would be entitled to additional leave and pay for up to 12 weeks.

Bliss, a charity for babies born sick or premature, have signalled their support for the legislation. Chief executive Caroline Lee-Davey 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. We look forward to working with Stuart and colleagues across parliament to ensure that this Bill becomes law”.

Having come top of the Private Members’ Bill ballot this week, the Bill is guaranteed to be debated in the Commons. While the Government has not yet indicated whether they will support this Bill or not, in the 2020 Budget, it said it would introduce neonatal leave for up to 12 weeks.

The second reading of the Bill is set to take place on 15 July.

In the same ballot, another Bill, which intends to prevent employers from making recently pregnant women redundant, was also selected.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said: “This an important change to legislation and we are calling on the Government to ensure that this Bill is given enough parliamentary time to become law”.

“The extraordinary lengths that our political class will go to when caring for premature babies is commendable. If a baby is born extremely prematurely (before 28 weeks) it is more or less guaranteed that he or she will spend a long time in hospital so this legislation is a real boon for parents of these children”.

“However, it is immensely sad that while so much effort is expended on babies outside of the womb, disabled babies at the same gestational age can have their life ended through abortion”.

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.