BEIS issues press release confirming ‘Jack’s Law’ – the legal right to parental bereavement leave
24 January 2020
The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act, which received Royal Assent back in September 2018, means that employees who endure the horrendous tragedy of losing a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks will have a statutory right to take two weeks leave.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released a press issue which confirmed that the regulations will be referred to as ‘Jack’s Law’ and are a world first. The department also confirmed that this will be the first of numerous employment reforms which will be implemented to ensure that the UK is the best place in the world to work and to set up a business.
The regulations will be named ‘Jack’s Law’ in memory of Jack Herd. His mother, Lucy Herd, lobbied relentlessly in relation to this matter and her perseverance paid off, as the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay regulations implement a statutory right for all employed parents who suffer the loss of a child to take two weeks leave, regardless of how long they have worked for their employer. She commented:
“In the immediate aftermath of a child dying, parents have to cope with their own loss, the grief of their wider family, including other children, as well as a vast amount of administrative paperwork and other arrangements. A sudden or accidental death may require a post-mortem or inquest; there is a funeral to arrange; and there are many other organisations to contact, from schools to benefit offices.
When I started this campaign 10 years ago after the death of my son Jack, I always hoped that a positive change would happen in his memory. Knowing that nearly 10 years of campaigning has helped create ‘Jack’s Law’ is the most wonderful feeling, but it is bittersweet at the same time. I am so grateful to all those involved who have helped make this possible. I was told many times that I would not succeed but Jack’s Law will now ensure that bereaved parents are better protected in the future.”
The leave can be taken as either a single block of two weeks or as two separate weeks, both consistent of a week in length. The full leave allowance must be taken with 56 weeks. This is so that individuals wishing to take the leave in two separate chunks could potentially take a week’s leave directly after the death of the child, and then a further week around the time of the anniversary of the death, which has been identified as a further period of substantial difficulty for those grieving the loss of a child.
Business Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, who delivered the press release, commented:
“There can be few worse experiences in life than the loss of a child and I am proud that this government is delivering ‘Jack’s Law’, making us the first country in the world to do so.
When it takes effect, Jack’s Law will be a fitting testament to the tireless efforts of Lucy Herd, alongside many charities, to give parents greater support.”
There are approximately 7,500 child deaths in the UK each year, roughly 3,000 of which are stillbirths. The government predicts that the new entitlement will benefit around 10,000 parents a year.
On a worldwide scale, very few countries offer such support, and the UK will be the first offering a full two weeks. The new legislation is expected to come into effect from 6 April 2020. Where parents have been employed for a period of six months or more, they will have the option to claim statutory pay for the two-week period, in alignment with other parental entitlements currently in place.
The Employment Bill, which was referenced in the Queen’s Speech in December, will signal the introduction of an array of additional measures designed to benefit workers and businesses. Two such measures are carer’s leave and neonatal pay.
Although the article specifies that the legislation will be applicable UK-wide, it is to be noted that at present, no clear decision has been articulated in relation to the intentions of Northern Ireland. Traditionally, Northern Ireland would bring in legislation to mirror other statutory leave and pay. As soon as any further information is available, the CIPP will provide an update.
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