The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a Bill to allow grieving parents two weeks paid leave following the death of a child or a stillbirth or miscarriage.
The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Bill was introduced by Diana Dodds MLA when she was Minister for the Economy and was passed by the Assembly last week.
Mrs Dodds, whose son Andrew was born with spina bifida and died in 1998 at just eight years old, said: “The trauma of losing a child is impossible to overstate, and it is completely understandable that working parents who experience such a bereavement will need the compassion and support of a caring employer”.
The current Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons said: “It will provide an important statutory safety net for working parents who suffer such a profound loss. No one should have to worry about losing their job or having to return to work while starting to grieve the loss of a child”.
The legislation applies to parents who lose a child inside or outside the womb
Importantly, the legislation will not only apply to parents who have lost a child outside of the womb, but will extend to working parents who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth.
This Bill will see Northern Ireland take a different approach to the rest of the UK, where parents whose baby dies after 24 weeks gestation are entitled to maternity leave, paternity leave and parental bereavement leave, but not if their baby dies prior to 24 weeks gestation.
Mr Lyons said: “It is important we recognise that the loss of a child in the womb is still a horrendous experience and we want to provide support where possible. Northern Ireland will now be the first jurisdiction in Europe, and one of only a handful across the world, to have legislated for miscarriage employment rights in such a comprehensive fashion”.
“Following a full public consultation, my Department will draw up detailed miscarriage leave and pay regulations, with an introduction date following shortly after”.
Caoimhe Archibald, Sinn Féin MLA, welcomed the passing of the bill in the Assembly.
“This legislation will help workers who face the devastation of losing a child, suffering a stillbirth or miscarriage. It will ensure they will get paid leave and have compassionate support from their employers under these awful circumstances”, she said.
“I am particularly pleased that this bill will ensure workers suffering miscarriage are included and that workers will be entitled to paid leave from the day they start work”.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “This Bill recognises the real trauma and loss experienced by those who lose a child, whether that child is inside or outside of the womb. Where this Bill recognises that the life of the baby lost in a miscarriage or stillbirth mattered, the abortion law in Northern Ireland says that the life of the baby ended in abortion does not matter. But there is no real difference. They are both equally human and their lives mattered”.