Luton's MP's fight for more rights for bereaved parents

New Bill will give parental leave for those who suffer miscarriages under 24 weeks

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 11:21 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd October 2021, 11:24 pm

A new law to allow full paid time off work for parents who experience a miscarriage or still birth has been introduced to Parliament this week, led by Luton North MP Sarah Owen.

Currently, if a miscarriage happens in the first 24 weeks of a pregnancy, there's no legal right to maternity or parental bereavement leave. Ms Owen says her new law will give both parents who suffer such trauma the automatic right to paid leave from work for at least a week, regardless of what time during a pregnancy a woman miscarries.

The pregnancy charity Tommy’s estimates that as many as 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.

Sarah Owen MP

In April 2020, paid parental leave for the loss of a baby after 24 weeks was introduced. It entitles a parent to two weeks' leave paid at £151.97 a week, or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. However, if a woman loses a baby before 24 weeks, the only option available is to take sick leave.

The Luton North MP has pointed out the unfairness of forcing woman who have just experienced such trauma to jump through bureaucratic hoops of gaining sick notes, treating miscarriage like any other illness.

Ms Owen, who serves as Vice Chair to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss, has spoken in Parliament about her own experience of miscarriage at work before she was elected as an MP.

Former Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt is among the cross-party group of MPs who are co-sponsoring the Bill. This cross-party display of support for introducing a new protection for Mums and Dads who miscarry in law is thought to be particularly significant ahead of the government’s planned Employment Bill, a long awaited new landmark law to reform rights at work.

The Bereavement Leave and Pay (Stillborn and Miscarried Babies) Bill was introduced to Parliament by a Ten Minute Rule Motion on Tuesday. Its' second reading is scheduled for February 25 2022.

The Chief Executive of the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (Sands) Dr Clea Harmer has said of the proposal: "Emotional and physical recovery from a miscarriage does not have a time limit and employees should not feel judged or discriminated against when requesting time off to recover.

"At Sands we believe miscarriage leave should be statutory, and that all employees who have been affected by a miscarriage should be entitled to a minimum two weeks leave on full pay.

"Pregnancy loss and the death of a baby is an incredibly painful event that has a lasting physical and emotional impact. We welcome the support that this Ten-Minute Bill will give to those experiencing miscarriage.”

Ms Owen said: “Miscarriage is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can go through in life.

“Campaigners and the media are breaking the silence and stigma of miscarriage but the law urgently needs to catch up with society to allow people the time to grieve and heal. Miscarriage can be physically painful, but it isn’t an illness; it is time the law stopped treating it like one and allowed people the time to grieve their loss whenever the pregnancy is lost.

“I’m proud this move has cross-party support. Ensuring that mums and dads who experience miscarriage get the support they need should be above party politics.

“I hope my proposal will be adopted by the government, because although there are a handful of businesses are already offering bereavement leave for pregnancy loss - extending bereavement leave for everyone who miscarried is the fair and compassionate to do.”