Charity Awards 2024


Secured a statutory right to paid leave for parents of babies in hospital

Having a child in need of neonatal care can be the most traumatic period of a person’s life. This can be compounded by financial and work pressures. With one in seven babies in the UK receiving some level of neonatal care after birth, new parents can struggle with the additional care costs and on average lose an estimated £3,000 in income while their baby is in hospital.

BlissBliss research found that in around 70% of families with a significant neonatal stay, at least one parent returned to work while their baby was in hospital. The inflexibility of the parental leave system was exacerbating the trauma that parents were experiencing and was depriving the child of parental contact.

To address this, Bliss set about campaigning for the introduction of new primary legislation to give employed parents access to a statutory entitlement to additional paid leave while their baby is in hospital. Activity included parent surveys, public-facing campaigns, and detailed policy influencing efforts.

But by 2022 it became clear that the bill Bliss had hoped to secure was unlikely to proceed, so the charity switched its focus to securing a private member’s bill. SNP MP Stuart McDonald came top in the ballot and after intensive lobbying from Bliss, agreed to take it through parliament with the charity’s support.

After 10 years of campaigning, the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act was finally passed into law on 24 May 2023. The new entitlement will be available from April 2025, with parents able to access one week of paid leave at the statutory rate for every week their baby is in neonatal care, up to 12 weeks. Critically, both parents will be eligible for this entitlement.

Over the campaign lifetime, Bliss sent nearly 2,000 briefings and supported more than 260 MPs and peers to take action in parliament. It mobilised over 13,000 supporters to help raise the profile of the issue and secured extensive media coverage of those with lived experience.

Awards judge Farah Nazeer, CEO at Women’s Aid, was impressed by the “laser-like focus” on getting the private member’s bill to fruition, given how difficult such bills are to prosecute. “They decided eventually to pivot their strategy, which was quite a bold option. But they saw it through and it will make a huge difference to parents with very young children.”

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