Parental Bereavement Leave (Amendment) Bill 2021: First Stage

I move:

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.

I will share time with Deputy Louise O'Reilly. It is rare for Deputies to get to present a Bill to the Dáil. I hope and wish that nobody will ever need the Parental Bereavement Leave (Amendment) Bill we are laying before the Dáil today. The Bill allows parents to take paid time when the condition of surviving a child, as it is often called, is often a matter of survival itself. Any kind of bereavement is a trauma but the loss of a child is a wound to the heart and soul. Here in the Oireachtas, this has been felt and carried by some of our own Members, past and present. We all presume and hope that in such heartbreaking circumstances, kindness will prevail by an employer and paid leave will be granted and taken, but such kindness should not be left to chance or be reliant on the kindness of an employer.

This is a short Bill but it is one with far-reaching impact. The right to take this time and have it paid can make all the difference to the healing and recovery of a family and, though we all hate to say it, their economic security as well. While the world is collapsing and life is turning itself inside out, parents have a right to take time without suffering financially.

People will ask who cares about the money at such times but enacting a Bill in the Legislature will mean that parents will not have to worry about it. Nobody wants to run into trouble later on because of difficulties encountered or created during one of life's most savage moments.

The Bill includes both parents of a child up to 18 years of age and provides that bereavement leave of no fewer than ten days may be taken within 42 days of the death of a child. The employer should be notified as soon as reasonably practicable that the parent is availing of this provision.

We all know there is nothing worse in the world than the death of a child. As legislators, we cannot comfort parents in their loss but we can protect them. With this Bill, that is what we seek to do.

As my colleague, an Teachta Cronin, has outlined, this is legislation we dearly hope no person will ever have occasion to avail of. We know, as I do personally, that there is no greater loss for parents than the loss of a child. In circumstances where a person is grieving the loss of a child, we should not add economic difficulties to their stress.

As Deputy Cronin outlined, the vast majority of employers will behave decently. The Bill gives people comfort in knowing they will not rely on grace and favour arrangements and there will be legal protection for taking time off work, not only to allow them to grieve but also to attend to matters that need to be addressed during that time. People will not have to be concerned about asking for time off because the Oireachtas will have made provision for granting them time off work as a matter of course.

In an ideal world, we would not need this legislation. I trust that many employers will think this is not necessary and that they would, of course, always look after an employee or worker in such circumstances, but it does not always happen like that. This Bill will give workers the comfort of knowing that they have a guarantee of some time off in such circumstances, not only to grieve but also to attend to matters that require their attention at a very sad time in their life.

I hope this legislation will enjoy full cross-party support. I do not think there is a Member in the House who would object to it. It is a short Bill and if it needs amendment or further debate, we will be more than happy to work with all parties on all sides to ensure we get it through and do this small thing for parents.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.