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Bereaved parents will have legal right to two weeks’ leave

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Parents who suffer the devastating loss of a child will automatically be entitled to two weeks’ leave, with long-term employees receiving statutory pay, the government has confirmed.

A mother’s 10-year campaign for a legal right to time off work to grieve and make arrangements after the death of a child, following the tragic loss of her own son, has become Jack’s Law.

Parents who suffer the loss of a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory leave.

This is a ‘day-one’ right for parents, irrespective of how long they’ve worked for their employer.

Currently 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 their death.

However, there’s no legal requirement for employers to provide paid leave for grieving parents – the only expectation is that employers be compassionate and flexible.

Under Jack’s Law, parents who have 26 weeks’ of continuous service (six months) with their employer and earn above the weekly average earnings rate (£118 per week for 2019/20), will also be entitled to statutory pay. This is currently £148.68 a week, or 90% of average weekly earnings where this is lower.

The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations (Jack’s Law), will be implemented on 6 April, subject to parliamentary approval, and is “the most generous offer of parental bereavement pay and leave in the world”, according to the government.

Parents will be able to take the leave in a single block of two weeks or in two separate blocks comprising one week each taken at different times in the first year of a child’s death.

Better protection for bereaved parents

Business secretary, Andrea Leadsom, said: “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, the mother of Jack Herd who tragically drowned before his second birthday in 2010, said: “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.”

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