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Peninsula: Paid compassionate leave for bereaved parents

The loss of a child is a tragedy no parent plans for, but with over 5,000 child deaths per year and no statutory right to bereavement leave, 81% of those recently surveyed feel that it’s time this changed. While some employers may provide bereavement leave as part of their company policy, the law currently only offers the right to take the time necessary to deal with the emergency and plan the funeral arrangements.

A Private Member’s Bill has been introduced in parliament which would give a legal entitlement of two weeks paid leave to all employees who lose a child under the age of 18. Campaigners for reform on this area suggest that this would:

  • Have far-reaching mental health benefits
  • Reduce the likelihood of long-term sickness
  • Benefit employers and improve staff moral

Previous attempts to introduce bereavement leave have failed, and without the support of the government, this latest Bill is unlikely to be successful. However, a continued debate on this subject could lead to the government bowing to pressure and introducing similar provisions.

Extended maternity leave for premature births

Currently, maternity leave entitles mothers to take 52 weeks, which is split thus:

  • 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave
  • 26 weeks of additional maternity leave

When the birth happens before maternity leave has started, the mother’s leave begins on the day after the baby was born. Campaigners suggest it’s unfair that in the case of premature birth that requires the newborn to remain in the hospital for several weeks, the countdown continues and the mother loses valuable maternity leave.

Proposals have been put forward requesting a change to the law so that mothers can be granted either:

  • An extra week of leave for every week the premature baby remains in hospital
  • Or 12 months guaranteed leave from the originally expected week of childbirth – even if the baby is born early

Changes to leave have been introduced to parliament in the Maternity and Paternity Leave (Premature Birth) Bill, but, again, this is a Private Member’s Bill, so unlikely to become law.

It’s thought that the costs to small businesses to grant more than 52 weeks’ leave would be substantial, and this alone is likely to discourage the government from extending maternity leave rights.