Parents who suffer the loss of a child through stillbirth will be entitled to paid bereavement leave after a new law was passed yesterday.
The law will cover the deaths of children from 24 weeks into a pregnancy up to 18 years old, and will require employers to grant two weeks’ paid leave.
The new law does not extend to children who die before Great Britain’s abortion threshold of 24 weeks.
The change comes after a successful campaign by Lucy Herd, whose husband was only given three days off work following the death of their 23-month-old child, including one to attend the funeral.
Herd said she was “grateful” the law had finally changed.
The law was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Kevin Hollinrake MP, who also welcomed the news.
He said: “Losing a child is the most dreadful and unimaginable experience that any parent could suffer and it is right that grieving parents will now be given time to start to come to terms with their loss.”
In 2013, Rachel Corry lost twin boys just under 23 weeks into her pregnancy when she gave birth to her “perfect and tiny” sons two days apart.
Rachel described how difficult she felt the system was for mothers like herself who had lost a baby before the 24-week limit on supposed viability.
She said: “If we’d made it eight or nine days later it would have been a stillbirth”, adding, “When you have delivered them they are your children but there is no legal recognition they ever existed.”
She and her husband Steve chose to bury their twins so that there would be at least one record of them, saying: “Legally they had never existed but if there was a stone with their names it felt like they did.”
Lack of support
A spokesperson for pregnancy research charity Tommy’s said late miscarriage and stillbirth before 24 weeks were not well supported.
“Until the 24 week deadline the foetus/baby is not eligible for a birth certificate and this can have a big effect on parents. Sometimes the hospital will issue a certificate but it is not a legal document.”