Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay (Consequential Amendments to Subordinate Legislation) Regulations 2020, which were laid before the House on 10 March 2020, be approved.
This statutory instrument supports the implementation of a new entitlement to paid leave for employees who lose a child under the age of 18 or whose baby is stillborn. The main regulations, which contain the main provisions of the policy, were approved by resolution of both Houses on 5 March, and are set to apply to child deaths and stillbirths on or after 6 April. Together, the package of Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations will ensure that there is a statutory minimum provision in place which all working parents can rely on in the event of a child death or stillbirth. They will also establish a clear baseline of support for employers when managing bereavement in the workplace.
Specifically, the Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 give all employees a right to a minimum of two weeks off work in the event of their child’s death or stillbirth, regardless of how long they have worked for that employer. The Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020 implement a new statutory payment for parents taking time away from work following their bereavement, subject to the same eligibility criteria as all other statutory family leave payments. The SI under consideration today plays an important role in supporting the implementation of this policy, and ensuring that it achieves its objectives.
The draft Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay (Consequential Amendments to Subordinate Legislation) Regulations 2020 amend other pieces of secondary legislation to take account of the introduction of the new entitlement to parental bereavement leave and pay. This SI makes it clear how certain other rights or benefits should be calculated when an employee takes parental bereavement leave or statutory parental bereavement pay. The Government’s intention is that parental bereavement leave and pay are treated consistently with other family-related statutory leave and pay entitlements when calculating entitlement to certain other rights or benefits. This is beneficial to employers who are expecting this new entitlement to align with the existing framework of family-related leave and pay entitlements.
The SI also sends a clear message that parental bereavement is to be afforded the same status and importance as other types of leave typically associated with the birth or adoption of a child. This supports the policy objective to encourage employers to acknowledge the importance and value of recognising bereavement in the workplace and providing adequate support for parents in those sad circumstances. Without this SI, we would be calling into question the status of this new entitlement when compared with other existing entitlements to statutory leave and pay, and we would create confusion for employers and their employees.
As I have said before, while the purpose of the parental bereavement leave and pay policy is to set a statutory minimum, this should in no way stop employers from going further where they can. The Government encourage all employers to support their employees in whatever way they are able to. It is my hope that this new statutory provision will act as a catalyst for improving workplace bereavement support across the board.
Before I finish, I again pay tribute to all noble Lords who have lent their support to this legislation throughout its course, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, for his integral role in getting this on the statute book.
In conclusion, this SI supports an important package of legislation to give bereaved parents a right to take time away from work to grieve in the tragic event that their child dies or their baby is stillborn. It plays an important role in ensuring that the policy as a whole can achieve its objectives by ensuring consistency between parental bereavement leave and pay, and other entitlements to family-related leave and pay, in the calculation of other rights and benefits. This is a fair and helpful outcome for employees and their employers, and I commend these regulations to the Committee.
I thank the Minister for that introduction. I am not sure whether I am the understudy or the understudy’s understudy, but it has been instructive reading a number of SIs over the weekend and doing my homework. I admit I was shocked to learn that, from government estimates, only two-thirds of businesses provide parental bereavement leave currently, particularly when the last figures I saw, from 2017, were that 7,600 babies and children under 18 died. This is not insignificant. The Minister rightly paid tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Knight, but this also derived from a Private Member’s Bill by Kevin Hollinrake MP and noble Lords should credit him for that.
I very much welcome what the Minister has said and recognise that this is the third of the three statutory instruments needed to put this in place, but I ask the Minister why it has taken two years from passing the original Bill to get this much-needed help. The Minister hoped that this would lead to certain consequences; I hope there will be a communications exercise with business, particularly small businesses, about this duty. I also hope that there will be a full review, not overengineered, of how this is being put in place, after a period—I do not know how long that should be, but maybe a year or shorter—to see whether businesses are really complying. Otherwise, this hard-fought new right, which we very much welcome, will not be worth as much as has been hoped.
My Lords, I echo and share the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, especially in thanking both the MP and the noble Lord, Lord Knight, for their work to get this on the statute book. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, touched on the numbers affected. Before I continue, I declare a non-financial interest as a patron of the children’s charity, Jigsaw4u, which supports the flip of this—children whose parents have died. It is within the same area, so I note that.
This side also supports the intention and wording of this SI. It is good to see legislation or rights being brought in from day one, something we were able to do starting with the Employment Rights Act in the 1990s. Most issues have been touched on, so there is no need to repeat them. This is just to say that we welcome and support both the intention and language of this SI.
I thank both the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, for their contributions to this brief debate. This is not a matter of controversy, but I thank them for supporting its introduction, nevertheless. When we debated the main regulations to implement parental bereavement leave and pay a few weeks ago, the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, who played such a crucial role in this—together with Members from the other place, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones—remarked that this legislation is an example of where the democratic and parliamentary process has worked well to effect a change in the law.
For noble Lords who do not know, this legislation is a result of a tireless campaign by Lucy Herd, whose son, Jack, died 10 years ago. This explains why it has been given the title “Jack’s law”, which has been used interchangeably with the much more complex formal title “parental bereavement leave and pay” in the media.
This Government are committed to supporting working parents and making this country the best place both to work and to grow a business. Jack’s law is an important step towards achieving this. Together with the other regulations that have already been debated, this SI will provide bereaved parents with the space to grieve following the death or stillbirth of their child, and will send the right signal to employers and colleagues about the value of compassion and support at such a tragic time.
I reiterate that these regulations represent a statutory baseline, which should be considered the bare minimum that an employee who has suffered this tragic loss should expect from their employer. As always, the Government encourage all employers to go further than statutory minima, where they are able to, and to act compassionately and considerately towards their staff. Most employers already provide exemplary bereavement support to their staff. However, some still do not, so I hope this new legislation not only ensures minimum protection for all employees, but also leads to better workplace support for bereavement across the board.
Turning to the contributions, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked me why this has taken two years. It has been complex to get the policy right. There have been a number of challenges to departmental resources, not to mention the incredible amount of work preparing for something that did not happen, which was a no-deal Brexit. It was always the intention to get the regulations in place to apply from April 2020.