PROPOSALS from an SNP MP to give thousands of parents the right to paid neonatal care leave and pay have moved closer to becoming law.

MPs unanimously supported the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill at the third reading in the House of Commons on Friday, paving the way for it to receive further scrutiny in the House of Lords.

The bill would apply to parents of children who spend at least one week in a neonatal unit, which care for babies born prematurely, with medical complications, or with a low birth weight.

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It is intended that eligible parents will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid neonatal care leave on top of their other parental entitlements, such as maternity or paternity leave.

SNP MP Stuart McDonald, the bill’s sponsor, said vulnerable babies “need us to do more to help the parents at a crucial time” and there are tens of thousands of families each year that are counting on the changes included in the Bill being introduced.

He told the Commons: “The intention is that parents will have an entitlement to up to 12 weeks of neonatal care leave, one for every week their child spends in neonatal care.”

The National: Stuart McDonald is sponsoring the bill in the UK parliamentStuart McDonald is sponsoring the bill in the UK parliament

The MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East added: “At the heart of this Bill is a simple idea: babies in neonatal care need their parents, and their parents need to be with their babies. And we must do all we can to give families this vital time together.”

He said the bill would “help give them that time without the added worries of missing work and losing pay”.

He said: “We need to ensure as far as we can that these parents have the time and resources to focus on their babies without the additional burden of worries about money and time off work.

"There are tens of thousands of families each year counting on us to get this done and to get it right.”

Alex Davies-Jones, Labour MP, Pontypridd, said: “This bill is personal for me. My son Sullivan was born two weeks prematurely by emergency C-section. Sully stopped breathing shortly after he was born, and then spent the next few weeks fighting for his life in the neonatal intensive care unit.

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“I will never forget the anxiety my husband and I experience in those very long few weeks.”

She said she was fortunate that her husband’s employer had a “flexible approach to annual leave” but said “the thousands of new parents who require neonatal care every single day of every year are often not so lucky”.

She said: “A shocking one in seven babies receive some sort of neonatal care. Paid neonatal leave, as this Bill would provide, ensure that parents can focus fully on being there with their new baby without having the complicating pressures about worrying about work or finances.”

Virginia Crosbie, Tory MP, Ynys Mon, said: “I’ve also had my own children in intensive care, which, even now, to be honest, I struggle to talk about, it was so traumatic.”

While Amy Callaghan SNP MP, East Dunbartonshire, said: “Taking sick leave from work to care for your premature baby should never have become the norm. I’m sure many families and organisations will be delighted at the change being implemented with this Bill.”

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake said the UK Government backs the bill.

He told MPs: “We often get asked when we bring a new measure forward like this: ‘Doesn’t that exist already?’ “When you get that reaction, it’s time we moved quickly to try and bring this legislation forward.”