What is Bereavement Leave under Jack’s Law?
Working parents who lose a child are to be entitled to two weeks’ statutory leave, under the new legal right – referred to as “Jack’s Law” – which is expected to come into force in April.
The law is named after 23-month-old Jack Herd, who tragically lost his life in 2010 after drowning in a pond. His father returned to work just a mere three days after Jack’s death, whilst Jack’s mother, Lucy Herd, began a campaign to highlight the problems facing bereaved parents who previously were expected to return to work as quick as possible.
On the issue, Lucy Herd said “in the immediate aftermath of a child dying, parents have to cope with their loss, the grief of their wider family, including other children, as well as a vast amount of administrative paperwork and other arrangements”. This new law will allow bereaved parent’s some breathing space to grieve without worrying about returning to work immediately.
As the law currently stands, there is no automatic right to paid time off for the loss of a child, however when the new law comes into force, the UK will be the only country providing the right to paid leave for bereaved parents.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said of the new legislation that “when it takes effect, Jack’s Law will be a fitting testament to the tireless efforts of Lucy Herd, alongside many Charities, to give parents greater support”.
Who will be entitled?
“Jack’s Law”, or under its formal title, The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations, will implement a statutory right to a minimum of 2 weeks’ leave for all employed parents who lose a child under 18 years of age, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Eligible parents will be able to take their leave as either a consecutive two week leave or two separate blocks of one week taken at different times; this right can be used regardless of how long they have worked for their current employer.
However, only those employed for at least 26 week’s with their employer will be eligible for Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP), which will be paid at the statutory rate of £148.68 per week, or 90% of average weekly earnings where this is lower.
It is estimated that around 7,500 child deaths, and a further 3,000 stillbirths, occur within the UK every year. This new entitlement will help to support at least 10,000 bereaved parents a year.
Dawn Allen lost her son Henry in 2013 when he was four years old, due to childhood cancer known as neuroblastoma. Dawn left her job to help Henry during his illness and eventual death, whilst her husband Mark worked continuously to support his family. Financial burdens and fear of unemployment often pushes parents back to work before they are ready.
Dawn described being a bereaved parent as the “most horrific experience” before stating that “Jack’s Law will really, really help bereaved families. I think it is something that bereaved parents do need and should have had the option a long time ago”.
Dawn also commented that being able to take the two week leave either together or as two separate weeks is massively important, as “you may find later on, as the days and the weeks and the months go on, you realise that your child is not coming back and that’s a massive reality check”.
Some bereaved parents simply have to continue with their employment. When Ian Bainbridge’s son Ellis was stillborn after 34 weeks, he had to take a day’s annual leave just to attend the funeral; there was no respite at all from his job.
Ian, an ex-nurse working in London, was responsible for managing 40 carers and vividly recalls breaking the news of his son’s stillbirth to his boss, “I rang my line manager and said, ‘You won’t believe what’s happened.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry to hear that, but I’ve got no-one to cover for you tomorrow. You’re going to have to come in.”
He describes the anguish he was going through, with his son Ellis being stillborn at 10:00pm, yet Ian was back at his job at 8:00am the following day. “I was back answering the telephone, being polite. Inside, I was screaming.” If it weren’t for his two other children, Ian believes he would have contemplated suicide as a result of the pressure he was under after losing Ellis.
During her campaign for Jack’s Law, Lucy Herd describes speaking to other bereaved parents, where there were inaccuracies between what employers were saying and how parents were subsequently treated, as “employers were saying ‘take as much time as you need’, and they were taking six months off, and it was down on their record as being off sick. They’d come back to a P45 on their desk.”
Implications for Bereavement Leave
Hopefully through this reform people can deal with the trauma of losing a child better than before feeling the need to return to the workplace. For more information on bereavement and what you can do in these tragic circumstances, please go to our website.
At the moment, the current bereavement award, in our respectful view, is too low. It does not provide sufficient compensation for suffering from the death of a family member. The government has assessed the award over the years for the loss of a close family member, wife, husband, son, daughter in the current sum of £12,980.
Whilst we appreciate that no amount of money is going to compensate the loss of a loved one, the current government award is unjust. Following Jack’s Law, we hope that there is also room for improvement in terms of the compensation awards given to bereaved families, irrespective of whether the loss is a young child, brother, sister, mother or father.
For any issues arising from this article or from any other matter concerning a bereavement award, fatal accident compensation, rights and the law please contact fatal accident solicitors.