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Peers support 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 is a step closer to becoming law after passing its Second Reading in the House of Lords.

Launched last year, the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill aims to provide support for parents who have sick or premature babies. It would entitle parents whose baby had spent at least 7 consecutive days in hospital within their first month of life outside of the womb to a statutory pay of £156.66 a week or 90% of their average earnings for up to 12 weeks. This would be in addition to any other maternity or paternity pay to which the parents are entitled.

The Bill was introduced by Conservative peer, Baroness Wyld, and SNP MP, Stuart McDonald in June last year 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.

Bill passes through the House of Lords

Last Friday, the Bill passed an important milestone in the House of Lords where it was praised by a number of peers.

Lord Patel, an obstetrician, called it a “compassionate bill that will help thousands of parents at a very anxious time of their lives”.

“Tiny babies spend weeks or months, sometimes more than a year, connected to ventilators, feeding tubes or, in some cases, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines.”

While praising the Bill, he raised concerns that the Bill would not support people who are self-employed.

Former leader of the DUP, Baroness Foster, lamented that the Bill would not apply to Northern Ireland and hoped it could be replicated once the Executive is up and running again.

Bliss, a charity for babies born sick or premature, has signalled their support for the legislation and has provided important data on this issue for parliamentarians. 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”.

The Bill only has three more stages to complete before becoming law.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “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.