That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006 to make provision for an entitlement to bereavement leave to an employee who is a bereaved parent of a child who has died and to provide for related matters.
There is no statutory entitlement to bereavement leave in legislation. While it is normally granted at the discretion of the employer, as legislators, we need to ensure bereaved parents will have one less source of stress at a time when their lives have been shaken to the core. Owing to the lack of legislation there is a grey area in law, which is unfair on employees and employers. As matters stand, those who find themselves in such a period of tragedy often do not know what their entitlements are and this can needlessly cause distress. Often employers provide bereavement leave on the basis of force majeure, but it is often limited. While some workplaces may also provide compassionate leave, it is very much at the employer's discretion. Employees should not have to negotiate to take leave at a time when they have lost a child. That is simply unfair. While most employers are sympathetic at a time of such heartbreak, not everyone is and this needs to change. The Bill is short and the purpose of the adjustment is not only to have a more compassionate approach adopted but also to provide clarity and for balance for employees and employers. The Bill defines "a child" as a person younger than 18 years and includes a stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The period of leave would be for not less than ten working days and the leave shall be taken by the end of day 42 following the child's death and from day one of the 42 days.
I look forward to discussing the Bill further on Second Stage and hope we can ensure a more compassionate approach is adopted in this area.