By Economy Minister Diane Dodds MLA
Upon taking office, I was truly saddened to discover that in Northern Ireland we do not have a statutory provision that can help bereaved parents when they find themselves having to cope with such a difficult loss whilst struggling to secure even the most basic of rights from their employer.
I therefore asked my officials, as a priority, to develop employment legislation for Northern Ireland employees that will at least match the parental bereavement legislation which came into effect across the rest of the United Kingdom on 6 April 2020.
In the interests of securing these rights for employees in Northern Ireland as soon as possible, I have also asked my officials to focus this consultation exercise in order to allow Northern Ireland Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) legislation to progress with the minimum of delay.
Subject to Assembly approval, I envisage that parental bereavement provisions in Northern Ireland will mirror those in the rest of the United Kingdom. In particular, I anticipate that the new legislation will create a legal requirement for employers to grant a period of a minimum of 2 weeks of Parental Bereavement Leave, with pay (if eligible) at a statutory rate funded by Government.
It is my belief that the impact of parental bereavement, whilst uniquely personal, is also a shared experience no matter where an employee lives or works. However, for this consultation we want to fully understand the needs of bereaved parents and their employers in Northern Ireland so that the regulations that we do bring forward work for us and address our needs.
I feel that it is important to draw your attention to the UK Government Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Consultation and response paper. A great deal of time and work has been invested in this important matter by Parliamentarians, advocate groups and by parents who have experienced the loss of a child. The passage of the legislation at Westminster enjoyed near unanimous cross party and stakeholder support. Many of the most salient issues surrounding Parental Bereavement have been examined, considered and debated in detail and this work will help to inform and provide insight for our own consultation.
Finally, whilst my Department develops appropriate legislation, as Minister, I would encourage all employers to ensure that they treat their employees with fairness and compassion when faced with personal tragedy.
I look forward to hearing your views.