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Plan for two weeks' parental leave for grieving Northern Ireland parents

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Urging action: Diane Dodds

Urging action: Diane Dodds

Urging action: Diane Dodds

A DUP minister has revealed plans to bring Northern Ireland's laws on parental bereavement leave into line with mainland UK.

Describing the proposal as "sensible and compassionate", Economy Minister Diane Dodds told a Stormont Committee this week that she'd asked officials to work out how to introduce the changes into Northern Ireland's employment law.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 - which comes into force on April 6 this year - provides for at least two weeks' leave for employees following the loss of a child under the age of 18, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

In Northern Ireland, employment law is a devolved matter and any changes will require the consent of Stormont.

Speaking to Stormont's Economy Committee, Minister Dodds said: "I actually didn't believe we don't have provision for parents who have had a child bereavement; it seems like in a progressive, modern democracy it is the sensible and compassionate thing to do."

Last night campaigner Julie Flaherty - whose son Jake died aged just two of a heart condition - welcomed Minister Dodds' commitment to introducing a statutory parental bereavement law in Northern Ireland.

Julie - who is a former Mayor of Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council - told the Belfast Telegraph last night: "I've been campaigning about this for years.

"It's been a long time coming - and it's the right thing to do."

However, the Portadown woman called on the Minister to act quickly.

"It took three years from 2017 to get this law implemented in the rest of the UK, and I don't want to have to wait another two years for it to be brought in for Northern Ireland!"

"Let's get moving."

"Thank you Minister Dodds for bringing this forward.

"Now it's over to you to get this signed, sealed and into place as soon as possible."

A Department for the Economy spokesman said last night: "The Minister believes that employment law should be compassionate and supportive of parents who find themselves facing this distressing situation.

"Parental bereavement leave is an issue that the Minister is keen to move forward on as soon as possible.

"Employment law is devolved and, therefore, any changes will require legislation approved by the Assembly."

Belfast Telegraph