Parents will have the statutory right to paid bereavement leave from April
Working parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will get two weeks’ statutory leave under “Jack’s Law”.
The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations were announced by business secretary Andrea Leadsom. The new law will be known as Jack’s Law in memory of Jack Herd whose mother Lucy campaigned tirelessly on the issue.
From April, working parents will have a statutory right to a minimum of two weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer.
The Government claims this is the most generous offer on parental bereavement pay and leave in the world.
Parents will be able to take the leave as either a single block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each taken at different times across the first year after their child’s death. This means they can match their leave to the times they need it most, which could be in the early days or over the first anniversary.
Leadsom says: “There can be few worse experiences in life than the loss of a child and I am proud that this government is delivering ‘Jack’s Law’, making us the first country in the world to do so.
“When it takes effect, Jack’s Law will be a fitting testament to the tireless efforts of Lucy Herd, alongside many charities, to give parents greater support.”
Lucy Herd says: “In the immediate aftermath of a child dying, parents have to cope with their own loss, the grief of their wider family, including other children, as well as a vast amount of administrative paperwork and other arrangements. A sudden or accidental death may require a post-mortem or inquest; there is a funeral to arrange; and there are many other organisations to contact, from schools to benefit offices.
“When I started this campaign 10 years ago after the death of my son Jack, I always hoped that a positive change would happen in his memory. Knowing that nearly 10 years of campaigning has helped create ‘Jack’s Law’ is the most wonderful feeling, but it is bittersweet at the same time. I am so grateful to all those involved who have helped make this possible. I was told many times that I would not succeed but Jack’s Law will now ensure that bereaved parents are better protected in the future.”
About 7,500 child deaths, including around 3,000 stillbirths, occur in the UK every year. The Government estimates that this new entitlement will help to support about 10,000 parents a year.
The right to parental bereavement leave will come into force on 6 April 2020, subject to Parliamentary approval of the legislation. Parents employed in a job for six months or more will also be able to claim statutory pay for this period, in line with the approach for other parental entitlements, such as paternity leave and pay.
However, some critics say that the new law doesn’t go far enough. Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, is calling for the government to extend bereavement leave to those who have lost a close relative or suffered a miscarriage.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland says: “Jack’s Law is a welcome first step in providing leave for people who have suffered a bereavement. Legislation must now be extended to include leave for those who have lost a close family member or are dealing with the grief of miscarriage.
“Where the union has negotiated bereavement and miscarriage leave policies, there are protections. In other workplaces, people can feel isolated and be pressured into working or even risk their job by taking the time they need.”