Together for Short Lives welcomes the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 and believes that it will introduce an important period of paid leave for parents to help them come to terms with the unbearable experience of losing a child. We thank Kevin Hollinrake MP for introducing it. We also thank Will Quince MP, who began the campaign to introduce this bill during the last parliament.
Looking after a child 24/7 in the knowledge that they will die young places the heaviest emotional, financial and social pressures upon families. Securing statutory bereavement leave for families who lose a child is one small but important way in which that some of that pressure can be relieved and societal understanding and support improved. Coming to terms with a child’s death is unbearable for parents, siblings and all the family.
There are many examples of employers showing fairness and compassion in the way they treat parents bereaved of a child; however, it should not be down to the discretion of individual employers as to whether parents should be allowed time off work to grieve for their child and make funeral arrangements.
What would Together for Short Lives like to change?
Taking leave and payments in periods of time other than a week
Payments such as the one proposed by the bill can only be taken in multiples of one-week blocks. This is because of the inflexible payment systems operated by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). We would like the government to to consider what can be done to enable HMRC to offer more flexible, daily payments so that parent carers are not forced to take bereavement leave in one-week blocks.
Extending leave and payment to self-employed people
Self-employed people are not technically ‘employees’ and are outside the scope of the act. We would like the government to make sure that a financial benefit equivalent to the payment provided for in this bill can be offered to self-employed people who are bereaved of a child.
The age of the child
As a result of advances in medical technology, many more young people with life-limiting conditions are living into adulthood. As such, we would like parent carers who are bereaved of young people with life-limiting conditions up to the age of 25 to be able to access parental leave and payments. There is a precedent for this age-range in another important piece of legislation, the Children and Families Act 2014. This is introducing a new special educational needs and disability (SEND) system in England for all children and young people with a special educational need and/or disability from birth to the age of 25.