After a decade of campaigning from a mother named Lucy Herd, Jack's Law has finally been announced in Parliament by Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.
Lucy has been tirelessly fighting for a number of years to bring in the change to employment regulations, after the death of her own son Jack Herd, at one years old in 2010. The new law has been called Jack’s Law, in honour of Lucy’s son.
The law will come into force in April 2020, and will mean that, regardless of how long an employed person has worked for their company, they are entitled to two weeks paid leave at a minimum after the bereavement of a child under the age of 18, or if women suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks onwards.
Speaking about the decision, Lucy has said, “When I started this campaign 10 years ago after the death of my son Jack, I always hoped that a positive change would happen in his memory. Knowing that nearly 10 years of campaigning has helped create ‘Jack’s Law’ is the most wonderful feeling, but it is bittersweet at the same time.”
And, discussing how the law will benefit bereaved parents, she explained, “In the immediate aftermath of a child dying, parents have to cope with their own loss, the grief of their wider family, including other children, as well as a vast amount of administrative paperwork and other arrangements. A sudden or accidental death may require a post-mortem or inquest; there is a funeral to arrange; and there are many other organisations to contact, from schools to benefit offices.”
Jack’s Law is the most generous official parental bereavement leave law in the world, and so is likely a welcome step to a more accommodating workforce in the UK.
The reaction to Jack’s Law
Some parents and members of the public have voiced concerns over the law extending only to the loss of 18 year olds or under, with others saying that two weeks is not long enough.
Commenting on Facebook, one person wrote, ‘In my personal opinion 2 weeks is no where near enough to grieve or even get yourself out of bed.’ While another said, ‘This is a good starting point but this should be extended’, and a third shared, ‘This is progress , but I absolutely agree with a lot of the parents on here there should not be a limit on the child’s age.’
Facebook users went on to tell their own stories of grief. ‘It shouldn’t be just a child under 18, my 22 year old son died last year, he still lived with me and I took 4 weeks off work and that was not enough! It doesn’t matter how old your child is, they are still your babies and losing them still takes a huge part of you away’, wrote one facebook user.
‘It’s fantastic news however why only to 18. My son collapsed and died at 19 from sudden adult death how can that be any less painful. A child is always your child whatever age…’ wrote another.
Other social media users have queried the law being applied only to parents, arguing that this should be standard procedure for anyone who has lost a loved one.
Of course, it’s important to remember that the new law is the minimum leave time now required by law, and employers are able to give more compassionate leave at their own discretion. Setting something firmly in legislation is an important way to open up conversation, easing the burden for parents are what is likely the most difficult time of their lives. Before Jack’s Law, employers were not legally obliged to offer bereaved parents any paid time off at all.
Many have praised Lucy for her incredible, tireless work getting the law passed on behalf of all bereaved parents, with one person writing on Twitter, ‘I cannot express my full respect & admiration for Lucy Herd’. Sarah Harris Director of Bereavement Support and Education at Child Bereavement UK, explained that Jack’s Law is a welcome change going forward. She said, “The opportunity for leave at a time that feels right for bereaved parents will help reduce a potential source of additional stress, and paid leave will give time to make decisions based on need rather than financial situation.”
Lucy’s also received support on social media, with hundreds of twitter users praising her tireless campaigning.
Clea Harmer, who is Chief Executive at Sands a stillbirth and neonatal death charity, also said that they were ‘very pleased’ by the law change. “Sands welcomes and fully supports the new Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act, that will ensure all bereaved parents will have a right to at least 2 weeks’ paid leave from work in addition to their existing parental leave entitlement.” Clea said.
“Having the legal right to 2 weeks of paid leave will make a big difference to bereaved parents affected by stillbirth or neonatal death; so we are very pleased that they have been specifically recognised in the Act.
“All employers need to ensure they know about this important change in the law and what additional support they can offer to bereaved parents in their workplace, as this is vital time for them in their grieving process.”