Bereaved parents to get two weeks paid leave

Wendy Pratt
Wendy Pratt

A Scarborough woman has given her backing to a private member’s bill which will give parents who have lost a child the entitlement to two weeks of paid leave.

Currently there is no legislation requiring employers to give paid time off to bereaved parents.

However, under proposed new laws, employees who have suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18 will be finally guaranteed their time to grieve.

MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake, who introduced the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill at Parliament last month, said: “As a former employer, a number of people who were working for me lost their children and when I realised that there was no legal requirement for employers to provide them with time off and that some employers weren’t even understanding of the situation it felt absolutely right to introduce this bill.”

He also hopes employers would always offer more than two weeks.

Wendy Pratt, of Gristhorpe, whose daughter Matilda was stillborn, has given her reaction to the new legislation.

She said: “It’s been eight years but it’s still something that I think about every day. It changed me as a person, it changed my career, it changed everything.

“It’s like a huge bomb that goes off and leaves everything in pieces and you’re just there trying to put everything back together, but it’s not the same – so anything like this that protects parents and respects their grieving process is a very good thing.”

Wendy lost her daughter during her third trimester which meant that she was able to take a year off as part of standard maternity leave.

“If it had happened only a few days before, I wouldn’t have been entitled to anything”, she said. “People just want you to go back to normal but there is no normal after you lose a child.

“There’s a lot of pressure from employers to go back to work because they need to keep running their business but it’s also in their interests that bereaved parents take that time off.”

For Wendy this new law is also a chance to change the way society looks at grief.

“We live in a society where people don’t know how to deal with grief, we don’t see it as a human process, it’s almost as if we’re ashamed of it.

“Employers have no tools, no skills to look after people who are bereaved and that needs to change. We need to talk about it more openly.”

Supported by MPs from all parties, the bill has now cleared both Houses and is on its way to receive Royal Assent.

MP Kevin Hollinrake said: “It’s fantastic to see all the cross-party support that we received.

“Sponsoring a bill is a very fragile process but it went through very quickly. For me it was a demonstration of what we can achieve when we all pull together.”

The new legislation, which will cost between £1.3 and £2 million a year, would come into effect in 2020.

Over the summer, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be working with employers, employee representatives and campaigners on behalf of working families to understand better the needs of bereaved parents and employers.

The Bill is expected to have its second reading in the autumn.

Gemma I’Anson, chairman and befriender at Scarborough and District Sands group (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death), said: "It's crucial for both parents to have that time off available for them.

"For things like registering the death of the child the fact they have that time away from work is important. Not having to initially worry about work, money and taking holiday time."

"It's really good that they are recognising the impact still births have more and more."