Bereavement-leave law for parents who lose a child aged under 18?

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St Helier Deputy Steve Ahier made the comments after New Zealand passed legislation giving mothers and their partners three days of bereavement leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

When asked what he thought of the country’s new bill – which was unanimously approved last week – the Deputy described it as a ‘forward step’, and said he would bring a proposition to the States within the next two months calling for Social Security Minister Judy Martin to generally overhaul bereavement-leave legislation for Islanders.

‘I would be looking for two weeks’ bereavement leave for anybody who loses a child under the age of 18. That would be quite similar to the UK’s regulations,’ he said.

The Deputy added that he was not yet 100% sure if his proposition would cover miscarriages and stillbirths, but said he hoped this could be addressed and that he was ‘working on it’.

Last year the UK brought in new legislation, known as Jack’s Law, in memory of Jack Herd, whose mother Lucy had been campaigning on the issue since her 23-month-old son drowned in a pond in 2010.

The law granted a minimum of two weeks’ leave for all employed parents if they lost a child under the age of 18, or suffered a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Shortly after Jack’s Law was introduced, Deputy Ahier asked Deputy Martin if she planned to incorporate a similar policy into Jersey’s family-friendly legislation, but was told that practical help was already available and that Jersey’s system of support ‘does vary completely differently from the

Richard Plaster, a director at employment law specialists Law At Work, said: ‘Currently there is no statutory right for bereavement leave irrespective of who has passed away – but most employers will do the right thing.’

Jo Nash, who founded Philip’s Footprints – a charity that offers support to parents who have lost a baby – said that it was important that parents had time to deal with their loss in peace. Mrs Nash founded the charity after her
son Philip was stillborn in 2008.

‘Jersey should aim for whatever allows employers to give bereaved parents sufficient leave to begin to process their loss,’ she said. ‘A little breathing space without financial worries hanging over them. We often hear about Jersey being “the best in the world” for so many things – let’s be the best in the world for compassion, and find a way to introduce parental bereavement leave.’

Deputy Ahier added that he would also be in favour of support schemes for small businesses that had to go without an employee as a result of bereavement legislation.

‘I think that support to those small businesses would have to come from the Social Security Department,’ he said. ‘I believe that is why the minister is reluctant to proceed.’

A freedom of information request submitted by Mrs Nash showed that 20 children aged zero (+24 weeks gestation) to 18 died between 2014 and 2018.

‘Fortunately the numbers are very low,’ said Deputy Ahier. ‘So hopefully it wouldn’t affect too many people or too many businesses that needed to provide the support to their workers.’

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