The government plans to introduce legislation to provide parents who have lost a child with paid leave from work.
The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 as it will become known when it comes into force this year will provide parents who have lost a child with two weeks paid leave and protected employment status. The Act responds to an 8 year campaign to recognise the needs of bereaved families and reduce the pressure to return to work.
Bereaved parents may take this time in one go or as two separate one week periods and will receive at least £146 per week, although the exact payment terms are yet to be confirmed. However, there are restrictions and limitations.
The parents must have been employed for at least 26 consecutive weeks. The first period of leave must be taken within 8 weeks of the death. Additional leave may be taken any time within one year.
The amount that parents are paid is unlikely to be as high as their normal salary.
Sadly the Act defines a ‘child’ as being over the age of 24 weeks of gestation and under 18 years of age. It does not provide the same support to parents of adult children or those who suffer early still-birth.
We see the Act as a positive step in the right direction but falling short of all that is needed. A study by Imperial College London and KU Leuven in Belgium shows why. One third of mothers who suffer an early still-birth (the loss of a pregnancy before 24 weeks) will have symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) anxiety or depression.
Anyone suffering from a psychological condition can seek help through their GP. This may include being signed off work whilst getting treatment and support. However statutory sick pay is significantly less than that which would be paid during bereavement leave (currently £94.25 per week). There is no guarantee that contractual sick pay (full pay) will be given.