Birkenhead’s MP champions new scheme to help parents whose baby is born premature or sick

07 Aug 2019
A proposed new scheme being championed by Frank Field MP, which would extend statutory leave and pay for parents whose baby is admitted to neonatal care, looks set to be accepted by the Government.

Every year, thousands of parents are forced back to work while their baby is still critically ill, and in a neonatal unit, as current provisions for maternity and paternity leave are inadequate. This is despite strong evidence showing better outcomes for babies when their mums and dads are involved in providing hands-on care while they are in hospital. Having a baby in neonatal care has a huge impact on family finances, costing on average an additional £2,256 per family in travel costs, accommodation and other expenses, as well as lost earnings.

In February, when a group of Birkenhead residents raised this matter with him, Frank asked the Government to consider extending statutory leave and pay for parents whose baby is admitted to neonatal care by every week their baby stays in hospital. At the time, the Government declined to do so. However, it has now launched a consultation on the scheme with a view to implementing it.

In his contribution to the consultation, Frank recommends that the scheme should protect families in which both parents wish to be there for their baby, safeguard parents’ right to return to work after neonatal leave, and be available to parents as a right from day one of employment.

Frank comments: ‘We currently have this awful situation for parents whose baby is born premature or sick. Rather than going home together shortly after birth, their baby is admitted to a neonatal unit for intensive care.  

‘Many thousands of parents in this situation have to go back to work, as they have bills to pay, while their baby remains critically ill. Likewise, in trying to spend as much time as they can providing hands-on care, they have to incur a barrage of additional costs.

‘This new scheme seeks to give babies in neonatal units the same amount of physical nurturing that other babies can have, and eliminate the harsh financial penalty that parents currently incur.’