For those seeking a brief diversion from the onslaught of Covid-19 related employment law changes, we summarise below the government’s response to its consultation on neonatal leave and pay and then take a look at the new consultation on carer’s leave.
Neonatal leave and pay
A government review highlighted that the current leave and pay entitlements do not adequately support parents of babies requiring neonatal care. Last year, the government consulted on neonatal leave and pay and, amongst other things, found the following:
- many employees suffered from poor mental health after their time in the neonatal unit;
- a proportion of maternity leave is spent in hospital with the baby;
- 6% of fathers and partners had to take sick leave to enable them to remain off work and spend time in hospital after using paternity/partner leave;
- over 99% of respondents agreed that parents of babies requiring neonatal hospital care should be entitled to additional leave and pay;
- 84% agreed these should be limited to mothers and fathers/partners who are living with them; and
- 93% supported the right to leave from the first day of employment, with 47% supporting a qualifying period of service for entitlement to pay.
In line with the responses received, the government has announced that it intends to:
- introduce leave and statutory pay for parents of babies in neonatal care, payable by the employer, of one week for every week their baby is in neonatal care (up to a maximum of 12 weeks); and
- legislate to implement this entitlement in the forthcoming Employment Bill.
The right to neonatal leave and pay would be available to mothers (in addition to maternity leave) and also to fathers and partners after they have taken paternity or partner leave.
The government is currently undertaking consultation about the provision of unpaid leave for carers. Under the proposals, carers would be entitled to one week of unpaid leave each year to allow them to provide care flexibly during regular working hours. This right would be in addition to existing entitlements such as the right to request flexible working and time off for dependents.
Amongst other questions, the consultation seeks views on:
- how to best design this new entitlement to support employees who are carers;
- the definition of ‘carer’;
- how the leave could be taken;
- the notice requirements for taking carer leave;
- the qualifying criteria to be met; and
- the costs and benefits to both employers and employees.
The consultation will close on 3 August 2020 (an extended deadline due to Covid-19).