by Tom Harris MP
Parents who suffer the loss of a child must be given a legal right to paid leave in order to grieve, a Glasgow MP has said.
Glasgow South MP Tom Harris is to introduce a Bill in the House of Commons next week which would enforce statutory bereavment leave for parents for the first time.
âMost of us can think of nothing more distressing than losing a child,â said Tom. âBut few people realise that time off work, when itâs granted, is entirely at the discretion of the employer.
âFew good employers would deny grieving parents time off in such tragic circumstances, but such leave should be a working parentâs right, not to be given according to their employerâs discretion.â
Tom paid tribute to the campaign website âJackâs Rainbowâ, established by Lucy Herd, whose own son died at just 23 months of age. Lucy has also launched aÂ petitionÂ to press the government to change bereavement leave law.
He added: âAt present, all employees have the right to take immediate âtime off for dependantsâ under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This is a legal right to unpaid leave to cope with family emergencies. However, there is no set limit on how many days can be taken, only a vague definition of âa reasonable amount of timeâ. Each employer will have their own bereavement policy, which is typically just three to five days.
âIn response to Lucyâs e-petition calling for statutory bereavement leave, which has attracted almost 22,000 signatures, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that all requests for leave related to bereavement are best left for employers and their employees to decide between themselves.
âI understand that the amount of leave needed can vary from one individual to another. Some parents will not be able to face going back to work; others may find returning to work a welcome distraction. Grief is not uniform. It affects people in different ways, and each person will need a time specific to them to deal with it.
âMany employers act admirably and offer significant amounts of paid bereavement leave. Regrettably, however, some do not.
âThere are a large number of cases where employers have fallen far short of their duties.
âI fully acknowledge that long-term staff absenteeism can take hit productivity , particularly for smaller enterprises. But considering parents are given paid maternity and paternity leave, it is difficult to argue why grief stricken parents are not afforded similar statutory rights.
âA mother is afforded twelve months leave for the birth of a child, but is given just three daysâ discretionary leave for her childâs loss. How can this be? On what moral basis can we give precedence to one and not the other?â
Tom is scheduled to present his 10-Minute Rule Bill toon the floor of the House of Commons next Wednesday – 4th September.