The workplace right to paid leave for bereaved parents has been officially enshrined in law, with the Parental Leave and Pay Bill achieving Royal Assent.
The new law, expected to come into force in 2020, will give all employed parents a day-one right to two weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Employed parents will also be able to claim paid leave for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.
Kelly Tolhurst, business minister, said: “This law makes parental bereavement leave a legal right for the first time in the UK’s history. Losing a child is an unimaginable trauma. I am delighted we have reached this important milestone that so many have campaigned for.
“I’d like to thank all the people who have helped make this law a reality, including the brave parent campaigners who have spoken out about their own experiences.”
Currently, under the Employment Rights Act, employees have a day-one right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, including making arrangements following the death of a dependant.
What is reasonable depends on the circumstances, but in practice the length of time off is whatever can be agreed between the employer and the employee.
The change in law follows campaigning by a number of groups, including Jack’s Rainbow, a group set up by bereaved mother Lucy Herd, who received only three days’ leave when her son Jack drowned in a tragic accident in 2010.
Herd said: “When I started the campaign eight years ago after the death of my son Jack, I always hoped that a change would happen in his memory.
“Knowing that eight years of campaigning has helped create legislation to ensure bereaved parents are protected in the future is such a wonderful feeling and I am so grateful to all those involved.”
The government-backed bill was introduced to parliament in July 2017 as a private member’s bill by Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton.
Hollinrake said: “Losing a child is the most dreadful and unimaginable experience that any parent could suffer and it is right that grieving parents will now by given time to start to come to terms with their loss.”