New Law Will Bring Some Relief To Grieving Parents

A new bereavement law has been introduced, that will allow parents who have lost a child the opportunity to grieve, without the worry of work or finances, for two weeks.

Under current UK rules, parents who have lost a child have no automatic right to paid leave. Although many companies will have a bereavement policy, this is often limited to three days.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Services (ACAS) has stated that employees are entitled to time off for a dependant, to deal with “unexpected issues and emergencies involving the dependant, including leave to arrange or attend a funeral”. It is unclear however, the amount of time allowed, the only guidance is that it is “reasonable”.

Unless a parent either takes the time as holiday leave, they will have to take any time outside of contracted terms, as either sick pay or unpaid leave, meaning a shortfall in earnings at a time of already unimaginable stress.

The new law, dubbed ‘Jack’s Law’, is the result of a campaign by Lucy Herd, whose son Jack drowned at age 23 months in 2010.

Ms Herd began campaigning after discovering from relatives that there was a gap from what employers were saying to how they were treating their employees.

“More and more people told me they had experienced the same thing. Employers were saying ‘take as much time as you need’, and they were taking six months off, and it was down on their record as being off sick. They’d come back to a P45 on their desk.”

Under the new law, a parent who loses a child under the age of 18 will be able to take bereavement leave up to two weeks, either as one block or two blocks of one week across the first year.

As well as the extra time to grieve, parents who have been in employment for at least 26 weeks will be entitled to up to £148 per week, depending on the level of their salary.

The new entitlement has been a welcomed by many who have previously experienced the loss of a child and know the stress of having to return to work without having time to come to terms.

Dawn Allen who lost her son Henry said:

“When you are bereaved, it’s the most horrific experience and you live with it for ever, it’s horrible. But Jack’s law will really, really help bereaved families. I think it is something that bereaved parents do need and should have had the option a long time ago.

“Two weeks is never enough but that’s two weeks more than other bereaved parents have got, and it will make a difference. We were lucky enough that Mark [Dawn’s husband] was allowed to take unpaid leave, but it was just a few days and it wasn’t at all long enough.

“You may find later on, as the days and the weeks and the months go on, you realise that your child is not coming back and that’s a massive reality check.

“I think that two weeks will really help some parents just to be together and to grieve, and if there are siblings, to spend time with those siblings as well. You feel like everyone around you just gets on and expects you to get on with your day-to-day life, and sometimes that’s hard for bereaved families.”

Discussing the changes with the BBC, Clea Harmer, chief executive of Stillbirth And Neonatal Death Charity, said;

“A lot of parents, after the death of a baby or a child, suffer the sort of grief or reaction to grief that needs psychological intervention…

“Time off and support early on can make a big difference

The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill received royal assent in 2018 and are set to come into force in April 2020.

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