June marks SANDS Awareness Month 2021, a campaign run by the charity that supports Stillbirth and neonatal death. It is an annual event run to raise awareness of the facts and impacts relating to neonatal deaths and stillbirths. The loss of a child in pregnancy or childbirth affects parents for life, but the wider public is not always aware of the full impact of such a tragedy.
Since April 2020, parents who suffer stillbirth or the loss of a child are entitled to two weeks’ statutory parental bereavement leave (SPBL). Those with six months’ service will also be entitled to statutory pay (SPBP).
This is thanks to one mother’s tireless campaign after her son, Jack, drowned in the garden pond in 2010. He was just two years old. After his death Lucy discovered that Jack’s dad could only take three days’ paid leave – any additional time off had to be taken as sick leave or holiday. Since then, she has campaigned for better rights for bereaved parents.
Lucy was a stay-at-home mum with two young children to care for, but her family, her whole support network, were back at work after three days. Lucy said “Everyone returned to their lives and I was left alone, just me and my grief – people take 12 months off for the birth of a child, but only three days to grieve one. My way of coping was to try and change this.”
The Act, also known as Jack’s Law, gives a statutory right to a minimum of two weeks’ leave for all employed parents if they lose a child under the age of 18 or have a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy. Leave can be taken in a single block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week, each taken at different times during 56 weeks after their child’s death. This means they can match their leave to the times they need it most, including the first anniversary of the child’s death.
Around 7,500 child deaths or stillbirths occur in the UK every year. The government estimates that this entitlement will help support around 10,000 parents a year.
Parents with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and weekly average earnings over the lower earning limit (£120 per week for 2021/22) will also be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay (SPBP), paid at the rate of £151.97 per week (for 2020/21), or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is lower.
Clea Harmer, chief executive of the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, said: “All employers need to ensure they know about this important change in the law and what additional support they can offer to bereaved parents in their workplace, as this is vital time for them in their grieving process.”
As well as birth parents, the entitlement will be available to adults with parental responsibility, for example – adoptive parents, individuals who are fostering to adopt, legal guardians; and many foster parents, although emergency foster care may not be covered.
The aim of this month is to raise funds as well as awareness, to support research into neonatal death. Often the causes of death are unknown, but many neonatal deaths and stillbirths have no apparent cause, which is an extra anguish to the bereaved parents.
SANDS is a national UK charity that provides free support to bereaved parents in the forms of individual and group support and relies on donations to be able to provide this service.
The awareness month offers vital fundraising opportunities to ensure that the money is raised to provide that vital support, to make sure that parents can cope with the bereavement as best possible and understand that they are not to blame for the baby’s death when sometimes there are no answers as to why it happened and to help them to keep coping with life during a difficult time that sometimes others around them may struggle to understand or know what to say.
This year’s Awareness Month is using orange and blue bunting and lights to highlight events, and organisations and individuals can take part and display posters at their fundraising and awareness events. For details on how you can get involved and show your support, please go to the SANDS website https://www.sands.org.uk/sands-awareness-month-2021-always-there-campaign
For assistance on how to support a bereaved parent in the workplace please contact us on 01473 653000, our qualified HR Consultants are here to help.