Introducing Jack’s Law – parental bereavement leave
It’s said there is no worse pain in a person’s life than the loss of a child. It’s unbearable to think about, and any parent’s worst nightmare.
Finding out that you have no legal right to take paid time off work seems unimaginable. However, unfortunately, it’s the reality for many bereaved parents.
This was the case for Lucy Heard and her husband, parents of Jack Heard, who tragically lost his life when he was just 23 months old. Following the enormous tragedy of Jack’s death, Lucy’s husband was forced to return to work after only three days.
While there are employers who will either have a parental bereavement leave policy in place or allow discretionary leave, this is not a legal obligation.
After 10 years of tirelessly campaigning for change, under new Government legislation, Jack’s Law will come into force in April this year, entitling bereaved parents to 2 weeks of paid leave.
Rules of parental bereavement leave and pay
Under the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Regulations, parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or have a stillborn baby (born after 24 weeks of pregnancy), will now have a legal entitlement to paid leave.
The bereaved parents leave allowance can be taken in a solid block of two weeks, or it can be broken up into two separate weeks. A week’s leave can be saved for the anniversary of the child’s death, or whenever it suits the parents.
The leave is available to birth parents, adoptive parents, persons who have fostered a child intending to adopt them, and to legal guardians.
Jack’s Law helps bereaved parents in the UK
In an ideal world, all employers would be compassionate. But sadly we know that some employers would expect a bereaved parent to take sick leave or use their holidays if they were to need time off work following the death of a child.
The introduction of Jack’s Law will make the UK the first country in the world to legislate for paid leave for bereaved parents. The government claims that new legislation is the most generous bereavement offer in the world.
Of course, for many bereaved parents two weeks won’t be anywhere near enough time to get to a stage where they can deal with work commitments and everyday life effectively.
And it’s not just the processing of grief that needs to be dealt with; there are practical arrangements as well. Many bereaved parents’ stories and circumstances will include post-mortems and funeral arrangements. No one should have to deal with these whilst working.
While employers could decide to grant a longer period of compassionate leave, some parents might not receive any paid leave at all before the new legislation comes into force in April. That’s why we believe that Jack’s Law will prove vital in helping the recovery of bereaved parents in the UK.
The new legislation is a necessary change in UK employment law and welcomed by business groups. Current figures show that there are approximately 7,000 child deaths and 3,000 stillbirths every year. This means that about 10,000 grieving parents will benefit from bereavement leave across the UK.
The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Regulations provide a fitting tribute to Jack Herd and his mother’s tremendous effort.
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