I AM a father of four children and, like every parent, I worry constantly about my children’s welfare and safety.
This is why I can begin to understand the grief and despair felt by parents who lose a child in any circumstance and however old.
It was also why I was honoured to have the opportunity to bring my Parental (Leave and Pay) Bill before Parliament and that it completed its final stages before going to Her Majesty the Queen for Royal Assent.
The Bill, once enacted, will allow grieving parents the chance to take two weeks’ paid leave if they have lost a child under the age of 18.
You might think, as I did, that this is already the case, but there is currently no statutory requirement to time off, paid or otherwise.
Whilst nine out of 10 employers are sympathetic, some are not and this is why it is necessary to enshrine it in law. One mother told me ‘When my child was born, I was entitled to a year off, but when he died, I was not entitled to a day’. That says it all.
It is therefore not surprising, although certainly heartening, that there was cross-party support for the Bill.
I was grateful for the support I was given by Government and colleagues from all parties and in both Houses.
In fact, I was humbled that so many of my fellow MPs, constituents and many others were prepared to tell their own personal and tragic stories and to relive, in public, the heartache they endured.
It meant that we were able to shape the Bill so it was fit for purpose and ensure that it applied to all those who may need it. The law will allow an entitlement of two weeks’ leave regardless of length of service, will include employed parents who lose a child from 24 weeks’ gestation (a point in time already defined in law), those whose child is stillborn and those who are already accessing an existing family-related leave and pay right, for example maternity or paternity leave.
Of course there is a cost to this and it is estimated that it could be between £1.3m and £2m annually. It is a cost that I think right that we all share, which is why small employers will be able to recover the whole statutory bereavement pay, whilst larger employers could recover most of it.
I would like thank Government Ministers who supported me throughout its passage and Lord Knight of Weymouth who guided it through the House of Lords.
I would also like to pay tribute to the Colchester MP Will Quince, who brought similar legislation before the last Parliament, which was unable to complete the process because of a shortage of Parliamentary time.
Mr Quince’s own son was stillborn and I’m grateful to him for his advice and guidance throughout, his brilliant campaigning skills and the quiet dignity with which he was able to share his experiences and encouraged others to do so.
I have been an MP since May 2015 and it is a daily process of learning and new experiences. I was proud to have this opportunity to introduce a Bill which will make a meaningful difference to thousands of people every year in their darkest hour.
I am confident that the new measures will change the whole culture towards grieving parents and that employers will give them as much time as they need to come to terms with their loss in private.
I have also come to realise, particularly during this period of deep political discord, how much we can achieve in Parliament if we can set our political differences aside and work together for a common cause.
Kevin Hollinrake is the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton.