During the last few months as MP for Ogmore and before the constituency was abolished, I worked to ensure my Private Members’ Bill has passed its third reading in the House of Lords on Friday 24th May, and will now become an Act of Parliament.

When I was successful in the ballot for Private Members Bills last year, my inbox was flooded with requests to advance all manner of worthy issues. But my overriding thought was to advance legislation that would result in meaningful change for individuals and families on a day-to-day basis and make their lives that little bit less difficult.

For several years, we have known about the loophole in current laws on paternity leave. Bereaved parents and guardians aren’t given the time they need 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. It will grant 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.

I am pleased that the Bill’s remit was expanded during its progression. The Bill will now grant a day-one right to the surviving partner for the leave they need to adjust and plan for a life without a loved one.

The bereaved partner will be able to take up to 52 weeks of leave during the first year of the child’s life. This will ensure they can act as the primary caregiver for the crucial first 12 months. Secondly, the Bill has been expanded to give adoptive and surrogacy parents the same leave entitlement. Thirdly, the Bill will remove strict continuity of service requirements. This means that should employed parents find themselves in these tragic circumstances, they can take the leave when needed – even from the first day of their employment.

A further enhancement to the Bill, which I was pleased to see, is that it allows for a leave provision in situations where the child also dies. This means that the surviving partner can stay on paternity leave for a period of time.

In far too many cases, individuals have had to rely on the goodwill of their employers to be granted leave. This was the case for Aaron Horsey, who lost his wife Bernadette in childbirth. And Simon Thorpe, who lost his wife to cancer after welcoming their baby boy into the world.

Simon also sees this issue from the employer’s perspective. He desperately wants to see this change, as he acknowledges that he wouldn’t have been able to offer more than five days of compassionate leave if it were for a team member. Surviving partners and spouses shouldn’t be left at the mercy of whether they have an understanding employer.

I’d like to thank Gingerbread, the Childhood Bereavement Network, the Fawcett Society, Darren Henry MP and everyone who helped with support and guidance to get the Bill through the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I hope people will never need this law, but we now have peace of mind that it’s in place to help anyone who finds themselves in this unthinkable situation in the future.

Chris Elmore
Chris Elmore
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