New law will give bereaved parents leave and benefits

Deputy Malcolm Ferey Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (35480325)

BEREAVED parents will be entitled to two weeks’ unpaid leave from employers, and able to claim benefits for the period, under measures to be introduced by the Social Security Department.

Assistant Social Security Minister Malcolm Ferey said he hoped that changes to the Employment Law, mirroring the so-called Jack’s Law introduced in the UK in 2020, would come into force in Jersey later this year.

Parents who lose a child at any stage between the 24th week of pregnancy to the age of 18 years will have an entitlement to the leave – taken in a single block or as two separate weeks – under the move which follows a proposition brought in 2021 by St Helier Deputy Steve Ahier. In parallel, they will also be entitled to social security benefit for the period.

‘The whole point with this is to make people whose lives have been affected by tragedy as comfortable as they can be given the very tragic circumstances,’ Deputy Ferey said, adding that it was an issue that he had first been involved with as chief executive of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

‘There was agreement that it was a good thing that parents who suffer such a tragedy should be able to have two weeks’ space not to have to think about employment issues,’ he said.

In the UK the parental bereavement leave and pay regulations were introduced in memory of Jack Herd, whose mother, Lucy, campaigned on the issue.

The regulations give a statutory right to a minimum of two weeks’ leave for all employed parents if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer.

Deputy Ahier’s proposition, modelled on the UK approach, was supported by former Social Security Minister Judy Martin and unanimously approved by the States Assembly in July 2021 but the development and passage of the legislation has been delayed by the pandemic and by the change in government last year.

Deputy Ferey said he believed that many Jersey employers were already sensitive to the needs of employees in such circumstances and that the legal entitlement did not prevent employers from being more accommodating.

The entitlement will also extend to step-parents who should also be able to support their partner in such circumstances, Deputy Ferey explained.

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