There is so much happening in Parliament that doesn’t get reported that I have decided periodically to use this column to highlight some of that work. Work that will improve the lives of my constituents and people across Cornwall and the UK.
The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act was introduced to Parliament in July 2017 as a Private Member’s Bill by Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, with government support. It received Royal Assent on 13 September 2018 and is expected to come into force in 2020. It will give all employed parents a day-one right to 2 weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Eligible parents will be able to claim statutory pay for this leave. This is the first law of its kind in the UK.
Recognising that the law needs to cater for a variety of family circumstances, the government has confirmed that those who are eligible will be widened beyond parents to all primary carers for children, including adopters, foster parents and guardians.
It will also cover more informal groups such as kinship carers, who may be a close relative or family friend and have assumed responsibility for the care of the child in the absence of the parents.
Dealing with the loss of a child is an awful tragedy which people will deal with differently. It is important this new law is designed so that people are given the space and respect to grieve in their own way.
Following feedback from parents and employers, the government last week published its response to the public consultation and announced further details about how the new right will work: leave can be taken either in 1 block (of 1 or 2 weeks) or as 2 separate blocks of 1 week: it can be taken within a 56 week window from the child’s death so as to allow time for important moments such as anniversaries; notice requirements will be flexible so that leave can be taken without prior notice very soon after the child’s death; employers will not be entitled to request a copy of death certificate to use as evidence.
We are very fortunate to have wonderful local organisations that can support people at such a difficult time. Once such organisation that I have visited is Penhaligon’s Friends, a Cornish charity supporting bereaved children, young people, parents and carers throughout the county. They offer children and young people the chance to meet others and share their experiences, as well as practical resources for children and parents.
Over the years the organisation has grown and there are now 5 full time and 4 part time staff members and a dedicated team of over 80 volunteers. They have increased their partnership working with other agencies, thus broadening the opportunities for Cornish children and families to receive optimum support. This essential work also helps to prevent mental ill health that can sometimes accompany bereavement.
First published in the West Briton 08/11/18