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MPs bid to help parents in ‘darkest hours’ with bereavement leave law

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill has cleared the Commons.

Parents will be helped in their “darkest hours” by MP-backed moves to guarantee bereavement leave and pay for those who lose a child, the Commons has heard.

Emotional scenes emerged in the chamber as the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, which aims to create a legal entitlement of at least two weeks leave and pay for parents, cleared its final Commons hurdle with unanimous support.

Conservative Antoinette Sandbach, who lost her five-day-old son Sam in 2009, fought back tears as she spoke of the importance of time off in dealing with the “devastation and loss”.

Speaking during the Bill’s third reading, the Eddisbury MP said: “We really are making history today.

“I hope those parents that face this in the future, they will feel there’s that little bit of grace, that little bit of space for them to be able to deal with what is just an utter tragedy.”

SNP MP Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) earlier said improvements could be made, including greater flexibility as to when parents could use the leave, but insisted the Bill was “enormously significant”.

Ms Gibson, whose baby boy was stillborn in 2009, said: “In passing this Bill today, Parliament will do something good which will help parents in their darkest hours.

“Parliament has recognised today that a parent burying their child is such a life-changing, such a traumatic event, that it should be recognised in law as that.”

The private member’s bill will undergo further scrutiny in the Lords as it bids to become law.

It was brought forward by Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) in consultation with his Conservative colleague Will Quince, whose son was stillborn at full term in October 2014.

We know the good this Bill will do Will Quince

The draft legislation had been dubbed “Will’s Bill” in honour of the campaigning by Mr Quince (Colchester), but he said it should be referred to as “Robert’s Bill” in honour of his son.

He said: “When members of the public, who in some cases have a bit of disdain for politicians, say ‘You MPs you do nothing, what do you do for us?’, well today we’re doing something for tens of thousands of bereaved parents up and down this country.

“We know the good this Bill will do.

“(Mr Kevin Hollinrake) very kindly and generously referred to this as ‘Will’s Bill’. It is not.

“Because all of my work in this area is only as a result of my late son Robert – so, if anything, it’s Robert’s Bill.”

Mr Hollinrake told MPs that his Bill would “help parents who suffer terrible tragedies and help them most in their hour of greatest need”.

He said: “This is thousands of people every year who suffer these tragedies, thousands of parents, so this is an absolutely hugely important piece of legislation.”

He added that the law was only required to tackle “a minority, the one in 10 who don’t do the right thing”.

The Government offered its support to the Bill along with Labour and other opposition parties.

Business minister Richard Harrington earlier said: “The Bill has to be seen as an enabling framework, which has the advantage of allowing time to be taken get the necessary details right.”

He said a consultation which closes next month will take into consideration issues and concerns raised by MPs via the amendments.

Mr Harrington added: “I can assure members on both sides of the House that this is not a can-kicking consultation, it’s not a formality.”

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