• International Workplace
  • 23 January 2020

“Jack’s law” to introduce two weeks’ leave for bereaved parents

Parents who lose a child will receive two weeks' paid bereavement leave under new government rules that will come into force in April.

Known as Jack's Law, in memory of Jack Herd, whose mother Lucy has campaigned for reform since he drowned aged 23 months in 2010, the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill is the first of its kind.

Under the new law, parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will be able to take leave as either a single block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each across the first year after the death.

Jack’s father was only able to take three days off after his son died, including time for the funeral. Ms Herd discovered that three days was sometimes the maximum leave workplaces offered parents to grieve, adding it ranged from “anything from 24 hours to three days and any extra time taken had to be sick leave or holiday".

When she spoke to other bereaved parents, she found a gap between what employers were saying and how working parents were treated.

"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."

The Conservatives made a commitment in their 2017 general election manifesto to introduce "a new entitlement to child bereavement leave".

Clea Harmer, chief executive of Sands, a stillbirth and neonatal death charity, told the BBC the new rules are a good start, but that the time off should be part of broader care for parents who have lost a child.

"A lot of parents, after the death of a baby or a child, suffer the a sort of grief or reaction to grief that needs psychological intervention. Time off and support early on can make a big difference.”

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the measures were "a minimum, and something to build on".

She continued:

"In many cases, businesses are incredibly sympathetic and very supportive of parents who have been bereaved, but what we are saying is, this is the statutory minimum and we would hope and encourage them to offer more than that.”

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said Labour had long supported the proposal and welcomed its announcement.

"As set out in our Workers' Rights Manifesto, Labour is calling for bereavement leave for those who have lost a close family member," she said.