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MP ‘forever indebted’ to colleague for Parental Bereavement Bill support

The bill aims to create a legal entitlement to paid parental bereavement leave of at least two weeks.

A Conservative MP was left visibly emotional as he insisted proposals to improve conditions for bereaved parents will mean his child’s life made a difference.

Will Quince, whose son was stillborn full term in October 2014, said he would be “forever indebted” to his colleague Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) for bringing forward the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill.

The private member’s bill, which has Government support, brings forward proposals previously moved by Mr Quince (Colchester).

It aims to create a legal entitlement to paid parental bereavement leave of at least two weeks.

Mr Quince praised Mr Hollinrake for agreeing to develop the measures despite various other campaigns and causes putting ideas before him.

Mr Quince, speaking during the Bill’s second reading, told the Commons: “I picked up the phone and he didn’t hesitate in saying yes, and I cannot thank him enough.

“For anybody that’s gone through the experience of child loss, you want to make sure that your child’s life – however short – meant something, that a difference was made because of it.”

Mr Quince’s voice cracked as he added: “You enabled that so I’m forever indebted to you. Thank you Kevin.

“This Bill is going to make a difference. For those families it gives them certainty – they don’t have to ask that awkward question when they go into work having suffered that tragedy for that time off.

“It’s going to make a difference to so many people and before I get too emotional I just want to say please support this Bill.”

Mr Quince shook hands with Mr Hollinrake after concluding his speech.

The Bill’s chances of success are heightened by the fact that it seeks to implement measures contained in the Conservative Party manifesto.

Prime Minister Theresa May earlier tweeted “well done” to Mr Quince, Mr Hollinrake and their Tory colleagues, Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) and Victoria Prentis (Banbury), for their “hard work” in bringing forward the Bill.

Ms Sandbach, who lost her five-day-old son Sam in 2009, told the Commons: “This is a day that will change the lives of many, many parents and the research is clear – unfortunately – that parents do suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.

“That is being looked into and it’s very clear that can be a consequence of losing a child and the medical research is showing that.

“To have that statutory right to protection is incredibly important.”

Mr Hollinrake gave examples of why the law change is needed, telling MPs: “For instance, the parent who told us about their employer – an NHS body – who, following the sudden passing away of their youngest daughter, offered them only five days’ leave, with any additional time having to be taken as annual leave.”

Mr Quince said his inbox is full of cases where people have been treated “horrendously”, adding: “Only this morning … somebody sent me an email to say they were told they had to take a day’s holiday to attend their child’s funeral. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Labour’s Karen Lee (Lincoln) said: “I lost my daughter a few years ago; she was an adult but I’d think I’d just say it’s something you never get over – you just get used to it, you live with it.

“I was employed by United Lincolnshire healthcare trust and I had a phased return to work, and they were just marvellous.

“I can’t ever thank them enough and it just makes such a difference having that chance to grieve.”

Shadow health minister Sharon Hodgson spoke of her experiences of losing a child 19-years-ago when she was working part-time and did not get paid for time she took off.

The Washington and Sunderland West MP said: “I didn’t have to take holiday to… grieve and have the funeral, but I equally wasn’t paid.”

She said her husband dealt with the grief differently and “couldn’t wait to get back to work”, adding: “I still haven’t quite forgiven him for that because I really needed him but he chose and needed in his way to cope to go back to work.”

Responding to the debate, Business minister Margot James said she “sympathised” with Ms Hodgson’s point – and said it was “helpful that this Bill does mirror existing employment provisions to minimise additional complexity for employers and parents”.

Ms James said: “I can assure the House that in line with all the other recommendations made by Matthew Taylor that we will be considering these and other aspects raised in this debate when we come to respond to the Taylor Review before the end of the year.”

She also called for a “wider culture change in the way that some businesses deal with staff who have suffered a bereavement”.

The Bill was approved unopposed at second reading.

Mr Hollinrake, concluding the debate, joked that it should be known as “Will’s Bill” after Mr Quince.

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