Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Bereavement) Bill: Instruction

– in the House of Commons at 3:07 pm on 5 March 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) 3:07, 5 March 2024

I beg to move,

That it be an instruction to the Committee on the Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Bereavement) Bill that the Committee have leave to make provision about paternity leave in cases involving the death of—

(a) the mother of a child,

(b) a person with whom a child is, or is expected to be, placed for adoption, or

(c) an applicant or intended applicant for a parental order under section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

The Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Bereavement) Bill, introduced by Chris Elmore, was supported by the Government on Second Reading and enjoyed cross-party support from the House. I congratulate the hon. Member on bringing forward this very important Bill. My hon. Friend Darren Henry has also campaigned on the issue.

As it stands, the Bill would require regulations to be made that remove the continuity of service requirement for bereaved partners so that they are eligible for shared parental leave and pay. The Bill aims to provide a parental leave entitlement for bereaved fathers by providing a shared parental leave entitlement, but that is not the only or necessarily the best mechanism available. It is also possible to use parental leave to achieve the Bill’s objective.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

There is nobody in the House who does not welcome the legislation and the thought behind bringing it forward. I understand—perhaps the Minister can confirm this—that the Bill will not be law in Northern Ireland, and that it will take a process to make that happen. Will he outline the process that will ensure that those in Northern Ireland have the same opportunities as those the Bill?

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade)

I am very happy to work with the hon. Gentleman to ensure that is the case. We will do everything possible to support those efforts in Northern Ireland.

My officials are working to complete a comparative analysis of shared parental leave and paternity leave entitlements to establish which mechanism is best to achieve the Bill’s intent. To ensure we use the best available mechanism to deliver this entitlement, we are seeking to broaden the scope of the Bill to include paternity leave. In that way, both shared parental leave and paternity leave can be considered in Committee. We are of course working closely with the hon. Member for Ogmore on that.

What is more, the instruction would enable a Committee to consider amendments that would extend the measures to new parents who have their children through other routes, such as adoption or surrogacy arrangements. Where possible and appropriate, the Government aim to afford adoptive and surrogate parents similar employment rights to those we give to birth parents. Employed parents who have their child through adoption or surrogacy arrangements may be entitled to adoption leave and pay, or paternity leave and pay. Extending the provision in the Bill to new parents who have their children through those other routes is consistent with the Government’s stance on this issue. I have discussed this motion with the hon. Member for Ogmore, and I appreciate his support. I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Employment Rights and Protections) 3:11, 5 March 2024

I will just say a few words about the motion; I am sure the Minister would be disappointed if I did not.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Chris Elmore for his work on this issue. I am pleased to see Darren Henry here too, because they have both been working on this issue with the Minister, and it is very pleasing that we have got to this stage. I commend my hon. Friend on his success in achieving Government support. This important Bill will help those in the awful and unimaginable situation of losing a partner when a child is expected. The Minister is right to try to equalise the provisions across all circumstances. We look forward to the Bill hopefully being amended in Committee to take on board the intentions set out today. We welcome the motion, and we wish it all the best.

Photo of Darren Henry Darren Henry Conservative, Broxtowe

When Aaron came to my constituency surgery with his three-week-old son, Tim, in his arms—his wife sadly died in childbirth—he had been working for a company for less than six months so he was not entitled to shared parental leave. Does the shadow Minister agree that this will affect the very small number of people a year in that situation? It will not be a significant burden on businesses and the Government, but for the people it affects it will be hugely impactful.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Employment Rights and Protections)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We have discussed that with the Minister in other debates. The Bill will thankfully affect a very small number of people, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that for them it will be an incredibly important advance. On that note, I wish the Bill the best of success in its passage through Parliament.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:13, 5 March 2024

I rise in support of the Minister’s motion. I thank him for the constructive way in which he, his officials and—dare I say it?—the Government Whips Office have engaged with me during the passage of this Bill. I also thank my hon. Friend Justin Madders for his and his team’s support.

As Darren Henry said, this Bill will not impact many people. No one in this House wants it to impact many people, because nobody should face what some of our constituents have in recent years and long before. Becoming a parent should be a moment of joy, not a moment of grief and sorrow. I welcome the Minister’s intervention to broaden the scope of the Bill. It is hugely important to a small number of people, and I look forward to dealing with the number of amendments that will come forward when the Bill is in Committee at the end of the month.

Question put and agreed to.