Why I’m determined to close the loophole on paternity leave in the most tragic of circumstances

MP Chris Elmore writes about his Private Members’ Bill which seeks to address a legal ‘loophole’ for parents whose partners die in pregnancy or childbirth.

single dad holding his child on a beach

 

When I found out that I was successful in the Private Members Bill Ballot my inbox was flooded with all manner of worthy issues, yet my overriding thought was to try and take through legislation that would achieve meaningful change for individuals and families on a day-to-day basis and make their lives that little bit less difficult. Making a positive change in society has always been my drive since being elected.

There is currently a loophole in legislation that is leaving parents and guardians each year without sufficient time to grieve, plan and adjust to life without the mother of their child. As a father, and as a husband, I couldn’t think of anything worse than losing my wife and the mother of our three-year-old, let alone losing her at the very start of our journey as parents.

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill* is designed to be an extended form of paternity leave, granting a day-one employment right for the surviving partner, in the scenario that the mother of the child has died during pregnancy or as a consequence of childbirth.

Whilst there is already a provision in law for shared parental leave in the case of bereavement, it is subject to strict continuity employment tests which a minority of spouses and partners each year fail to meet. In too many cases individuals have had to rely on the good will of their employers to be granted leave. This was the case for Aaron Horsey, who tragically lost his wife Bernadette in childbirth, and Simon Thorpe who lost his wife to cancer after welcoming their baby boy into the world.

For Simon, as an employer, he desperately wants to see this change as he acknowledges that he wouldn’t have been able to offer any more than five days compassionate leave if it was for a member of his team. Surviving partners and spouses shouldn’t be left at the mercy of whether they have an understanding employer. They should have that guarantee to the leave they need enshrined in law.

If successful, the Bill would grant the surviving partner a day one right to the leave they need to adjust and plan for a life without their loved one. The change would make a massive difference to a small number of people each year where families experience life-changing circumstances.

I hope, as the Bill progresses, it starts a much-needed debate on how we can go about improving maternity and employment rights – making them fit for 2024 and beyond.

*The Bill successfully passed its committee stage two weeks ago.



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