UK Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said “Jack’s Law” will give parents a statutory right to a fortnight’s bereavement leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy - no matter how long they have worked for their employer.
The new legislation is in memory of Jack Herd whose mother Lucy campaigned on the issue after the 23-month-old toddler drowned in the family pond in 2010. Her husband was allowed just three days paid leave from his engineering job.
Parents will now be able to take the leave as either a single block of two weeks, or as two separate single weeks at different times across the first year after their child’s death, enabling them to match their leave to the times they need it most.
Andrea Leadsom said: “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 word to do so. When it takes effect, Jack’s Law will be a fitting testament to the tireless efforts of Lucy Herd.”
Lucy Herd said the creation of Jack's Law was "bittersweet", but a "positive change" in his memory.
“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," she said. "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 ten years ago after the death of my son Jack, I always hoped that a positive change would happen in his memory. Knowing that nearly ten 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.”
Around 7,500 child deaths, including around 3,000 stillbirths, occur in the UK every year and te Government estimates that Jack's Law will help to support around 10,000 parents a year.
Clea Harmer, Chief Executive at Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal dealth charity, said: “Sands welcomes and fully supports the new Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act, that will ensure all bereaved parents will have a right to at least two weeks’ paid leave from work in addition to their existing parental leave entitlement.
“Having the legal right to two weeks of paid leave will make a big difference to bereaved parents affected by stillbirth or neonatal death; so we are very pleased that they have been specifically recognised in the Act.
“All employers need to ensure they know about this important change in the law and what additional support they can offer to bereaved parents in their workplace, as this is vital time for them in their grieving process.”
And Steven Wibberley, Chief Executive of Cruse Bereavement Care, said: “We are delighted that the new paid bereavement leave entitlement is one step closer to coming into force. It will make a huge difference to bereaved parents across the country, whose lives have been shattered by the death of a child.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is that parents are given time and space to grieve in the aftermath of a child’s death. Support from employers can play a huge part in this. We are pleased the Government has laid out the minimum provision for bereaved parents, and we know many employers will go much further than this.
“We look forward to working with the Government to ensure employers know about these changes, and to support bereaved parents in their workforce.”
The right to parental bereavement leave and pay makes the UK one of a very few countries worldwide to offer such support, and the first to offer a full two weeks.
It will come into force on 6 April 2020, subject to Parliamentary approval of the legislation being laid today. Parents employed in a job for six months or more will also be able to claim statutory pay for this period, in line with the approach for other parental entitlements, such as paternity leave and pay.