Bereavement Leave & Pay: didlaw’s Joanne Sinclair on why they are good, but not good enough.

My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I was devastated. I had never experienced that level of sadness before. But the day after I left the hospital I got up and went to work. I was there in body but not in mind.

Now I have a daughter. I am incredibly lucky and hold her very close because of what happened. There can be few, if any, worse experience in life than losing a child. So like many, I greeted the news of  measures to provide bereaved parents with 2 weeks’ paid leave from work (announced by the Government last week), as a welcome move.

The Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020 will come into effect from 6 April 2020. They will mean that an employee who loses a child under the age of 18, or suffers a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory leave i.e. £151.20 per week (from April 2020) or 90% of weekly earnings if lower.

Worth noting that only ‘employees’ will be caught by these statutory rights. The modern employment landscape is made up of insecure contracts under which you are just as likely to be a ‘worker’ as an employee. The government could, and should, have gone further in my view. Grief doesn’t care about employment labels.

My own circumstances would not have been caught by these new rights: they do not apply to those who suffer a miscarriage before 24 weeks of pregnancy. That is not to say that employers cannot chose to have compassionate leave policies in place that recognise a miscarriage or still birth can be traumatic regardless of the stage of pregnancy.  And the compassionate ones, will.