I’m delighted that my Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill has passed through the Report Stage and had its Third Reading in the House of Commons today and is now on the way to the House of Lords. In a five hour long debate a number of amendments were introduced and withdrawn when MPs on both sides of the House were satisfied that their concerns would be considered and included, where reasonable, in the final legislation. This Bill, once it is given Royal Assent, will, for the first time, create statutory protection by giving employed parents the entitlement to two weeks' paid leave if they lose a child under the age of 18.
Among the amendments introduced today was a call for a clearer definition of bereaved parents and whether this should include grandparents, legal guardians and foster carers; a requirement for flexibility in taking the bereavement leave to depend on the individual and timings of funerals or inquests; clarification on the baseline minimum time that a bereaved parent can take off and whether paid leave can be increased from two to four weeks. These are all points which are expected to be included in responses to the consultation which closes on 8th June and will be considered in the House of Lords or through secondary legislation.
It must be said that nine out of ten employers treat their employees with compassion when they lose a child. This Bill is designed to protect those employees who do not fall into this category. As one respondent to the consultation said.” When my child was born, I was entitled to a year off, but when he died, I was not entitled to a day”. This is exactly why we need this legislation and why it is so heartening that MPs are able to set aside political differences to work together to bring about this hugely important cultural change in the way we treat employees at the most difficult of times.
I am a father of four and cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak that losing a child must bring. Therefore, I am grateful to all my colleagues on both sides of the House who have contributed to helping me steer the Bill this far and to the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Andrew Griffiths MP, who has supported me at each stage. I would like to thank, in particular, those who have shared their own very tragic stories. These personal experiences have helped shape the Bill and test it, so that we can be sure it is fit for purpose. Above all, I pay tribute to the Colchester MP, Will Quince whose own son was stillborn and who introduced a similar Bill last year, but which was not able to complete its passage through Parliament. In tribute to him, I would like this to be called Will’s Bill and I hope it will become Will’s Act when it receives Royal Assent later this summer.