MP bidding for employment law change to give parents right to paid bereavement leave

Calls are being made for a legal right to paid bereavement leave to be given to parents coping with the death of a child.

Backbench MP and former Labour transport minister Tom Harris is calling on the Government to give guaranteed paid time off work to parents who lose their children.

He acknowledged that many firms were under financial pressure at the moment but insisted that employment legislation needs to be amended following cases in which employers have threatened mothers and fathers with the sack unless they returned to work following the death of a child.

Mr Harris, MP for Glasgow South, said: "Most of us can imagine nothing more distressing than losing a child, yet at this traumatic juncture in a parent's life there is no guarantee of paid statutory leave in the event of a child's death.

"The physical and emotional toll needs such a provision. In the immediate aftermath of a child's passing, bereaved parents must cope not only with their own grief but also that of the family -- siblings must be comforted, family and friends informed."

The MP said many employers acted "admirably" by offering significant amounts of paid bereavement leave.

But he said others didn't, adding that he was aware of a case where a driver was forced to return to his job at a waste disposal firm a day after losing his daughter. Another case involved a parent forced to take holiday to attend their child's funeral, he said.

Mr Harris said: "All grieving parents should be treated with dignity and I hope that the Government would acknowledge that under the current system this is not happening.

Current rules mean employers can set their own policy for leave. Most usually allow workers three to five days of unpaid leave for family emergencies with many permitting longer periods for bereavements.

The MP's Parental Bereavement Leave (Statutory Entitlement) Bill was unopposed when it was introduced to the House of Commons and has drawn cross-party support. Although a second reading was scheduled for October 18 it is unlikely to progress further unless it gets Government backing.

Copyright Press Association 2013