During a parliamentary debate on the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, MPs highlighted calls made by Together for Short Lives and others for a more flexible system of parental bereavement leave.
The bill, which proposes a new right to two weeks’ statutory paid leave for parents bereaved of a child, received its third reading in the House of Commons on 11 May. As a result, it has now passed unamended to the House of Lords. During the debate, Kevin Hollinrake MP – who introduced the Private Member’s Bill to the House of Commons – acknowledged the insight provided by Together for Short Lives and other organisations such as the Rainbow Trust.
He specifically mentioned the request made by Together for Short Lives that the right to leave be extended to legal guardians – such as foster carers – as well as biological parents. Another MP, Edward Argar, also acknowledged the call for greater flexibility in the bill that was led by Together for Short Lives alongside other members of the National Bereavement Alliance. He said he recognised that individuals and families grieve in different ways and that there was a desire for the bill to reflect the complex experiences of bereavement.
Together for Short Lives recognises that, in a number of cases, employers show great care and compassion in the way they support parents bereaved of a child. However, this is not always the case and it’s important that the decision to allow leave is not left to the discretion of individual employers. We believe that the bill is a welcome step towards setting a statutory entitlement.
However, Together for Short Lives believe the bill should go further and are asking parliamentarians to make specific amendments to the terms applied to bereavement leave in the bill, to provide greater flexibility to parents. These amendments include extending the window in which bereaved parents can take their leave from 56 days after the death to 56 weeks, and allowing parents to be able to take their leave in shorter blocks than one week.
Together for Short Lives, along with other members of the National Bereavement Alliance, is also asking that the bill:
- make sure that all those who have a parental relationship to the child would be eligible, including foster carers and recognised kinship carers.
- make sure that parents bereaved of young people up to the age of 25 are eligible to take the leave; the current age threshold in the bill is 18.
- make sure that bereaved parents are not asked to provide prior notice to their employer if they need to take statutory leave.
In addition to this Parliamentary scrutiny, the government is also consulting the public on some of these key aspects of the bill. You can find out more about providing a response to the consultation, either directly or through Together for Short Lives, here.