Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill: Consideration Stage

Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 30th November 2021.

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Clause 1 (Parental bereavement leave)

Debate resumed on amendment No 1, which amendment was:

In page 3, line 42, at end insert -



"Application in relation to miscarriage


112EF. The Department must by regulations provide that regulations under this Chapter apply in relation to a person who has experienced a miscarriage as they apply in relation to a bereaved parent, with such modifications, if any, as specified in regulations." — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 3: In clause 2, page 10, line 17, at end insert –



"Application in relation to miscarriage


167ZZ19. The Department must by regulations provide that this Part and regulations under it apply in relation to a person who has experienced a miscarriage as they apply in relation to a bereaved parent as set out in section 167ZZ9 (Entitlement) with such modifications, if any, as specified in regulations." — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

No 4: After clause 3 insert –



"Consultation on leave and pay in cases of miscarriage


3A.—(1) The Department for the Economy must consult such persons as it considers appropriate as to whether the entitlements created by this Act to—


(a) leave; and


(b) pay; which are conferred where a child has died should also be conferred where a person has had a miscarriage.


(2) The consultation may include, in particular, consultation as to—


(a) whether the entitlements should be conferred in all cases where a person has had a miscarriage, or only in some cases;


(b) whether the entitlements to be conferred in such cases should be the same as, or different from, the entitlements that are conferred where a child has died;


(c) whether anyone other than the person who has had the miscarriage should also to be entitled to leave or pay;


(d) whether different entitlements should be conferred in different cases of miscarriage.


(3) The Department must prepare a report on the consultation and—


(a) lay the report before the Assembly, and


(b) publish it in such manner as the Department considers appropriate.


(4) The Department must lay and publish the report under subsection (3) before the end of the period of 2 years beginning with the date on which the first regulations made under the provisions inserted by sections 1 and 2 come into operation." — [Mr Lyons (The Minister for the Economy).]

No 5: In clause 4, page 10, line 24, after "appoint" insert-



", but this is subject to subsection (2A)". — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

No 6: In clause 4, page 10, line 27, at end insert –



"(2A) Regulations under Chapter 4 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and regulations under Part 12ZD of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 (including regulations under Article 112EF and regulations under section 167ZZ19) must come into operation within 12 months of Royal Assent." — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

No 7: In clause 4, page 10, line 27, at end insert –



"(2A) Section 3A comes into operation on the day after the day on which this Act receives Royal Assent." — [Mr Lyons (The Minister for the Economy).]

No 8: In schedule 1, page 13, line 16, at end insert –



"8A. Regulations made under section 167ZZ19 must not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly." — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

No 9: In schedule 1, page 15, line 2, at end insert –



"24A. In Article 251(5A) (regulations that are subject to approval by the Assembly), after '107AB(4),' insert '112EF'." — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

No 10: At end insert-



"; and to make provision for consultation about leave and pay for persons who have had a miscarriage." — [Mr Lyons (The Minister for the Economy).]

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. As a member of the Committee for the Economy, I welcome the evidence sessions that we had. Exploring some of the detail not only with departmental officials but with a range of stakeholders has been invaluable in considerations of the matter.

As mentioned by the Chair and the Minister, there is a divergence of opinion on the route that we should take at Consideration Stage today. Perhaps, on a broader note of consensus, it may be worthwhile highlighting a couple of points on which, at least, there is some level of unity. Everyone accepts the significance, importance and sensitivity of the legislation, particularly as we consider today bereavement after miscarriage. It is important that we make provision in that area.

I praise the Minister and his predecessor for bringing the legislation forward. The Committee and the House are as one in recognising the significance of parental bereavement. At least three Committee members have, in recent months, lost a parent, and we know the grief and the impact of that. Whatever the grief for us as sons and daughters, however, the grief of parents when they lose a child is horrendous. It seems to go, in some ways, against the natural order of things. The provision in the legislation for bereavement leave is important.

While the divergence in this group of amendments is on how we treat miscarriage, there is no doubt that it is accepted across the board that we need to make provision for parents who have suffered miscarriage. The divergence, as we will see today, is on precisely how we do that. The Minister's amendment indicates a clear acceptance of the need to make such provision.

There are three areas where there is divergence or caveats. First, it is undoubtedly the case that when the legislation, which mirrors legislation elsewhere, was brought forward, miscarriage had not been included in the initial consultation. As the Chair mentioned, while a number of stakeholders came forward with thoughts on that issue, the main groups involved with miscarriage were not particularly lobbying for that initially, and it was not consulted on.

It is important in all legislation, but particularly in something as sensitive as this, that we get the provision right. To some extent, there is always pressure on legislation, particularly as we move towards the latter days of any Assembly term. The understandable desire to get things through becomes overwhelming. In doing so, however, there is also a need to take time to make sure that we get the provisions right. To that extent, we clearly need a level of consultation to make sure that the detail matches the proper level of provision.

Secondly, there is a strong desire for the legislation to be in place as early as possible. We know that the issue is not provided for at present. In many cases, individual employers will be understanding, but there is no equality. Therefore, we need to be wary of anything that delays legislation of this nature, because any delay will impact directly on families. I know that the Minister has talked about that, and I look forward to his remarks later in the debate. The question is whether, given other existing pressures, the time frame, the divergence between the Committee's amendments and the ministerial amendments, and taking into account purdah, the election, recess and, indeed, the pressure of putting forward other legislation, there is a genuine chance that this could be put in place within a 12-month period.

We need the whole package; there is no point in doing something that is piecemeal in nature. We need something that will cover all families. Whether that can be done within 12 months is questionable. As someone who has served as a Minister, I know about the pressures in Departments. It is right that the issues are consulted on. I have concern about and question the time frame in the relevant amendment.

Thirdly, there is another level of potential divergence. The Committee received correspondence yesterday, and we need to explore in much greater detail its repercussive impacts.

While it is important that we do not necessarily put a price tag on things, we have a duty to ensure that, whatever legislation we pass, we know precisely its consequences, and those can be financial. It is concerning that the spectre of £100 million has been raised. We know that there are other aspects that will cost additional money. Understandably, people have been highly critical in the past of commitments given about legislation and schemes that were put in place and that ended up costing the public purse a much greater amount than was initially anticipated. It is therefore right that we exercise some caution.

Consequently, the precautionary approach taken by the Minister and the Department to ensure that the legislation is got right and that any scheme brought forward is affordable is the correct one. While everyone is coming at this with good intentions, as do the Committee amendments, it is critical that we have good legislation. I do not want to see legislation that cannot be implemented for a lengthy period because of practical difficulties or that has such major economic repercussions that it stops other good work being done.

We can point to a large number of examples of where aiding people is of benefit to them. When there are major financial commitments, however, those come out of other budgets, preventing other good things from happening. It may well be that, when the legislation is scrutinised, not all fears will be realised. Given its scale, however, we need to take a cautious approach. That is why I commend the ministerial amendments. The Committee amendments, while well-intentioned, do not have the same potential benefit as the ministerial amendments.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak at the Consideration Stage of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill. I arrived late to the process. I joined the Economy Committee just a couple of weeks ago, so I have not been involved in the detailed scrutiny of the Bill up until now. I thank my predecessor as our party representative on the Committee and its Deputy Chair, Sinead McLaughlin; the Chair of the Committee; colleagues from other parties on the Committee; and the Committee Clerk and other Committee staff, who have worked hard on the Bill, including to prepare the amendments. Although I have come late to the process, a significant amount of detailed and cross-party work has gone into developing the amendments, so I support the Committee amendments. The Committee Chair covered some of the detail of the amendments, so I will not go through them in exhaustive detail. Amendment Nos 1, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9 are the Committee amendments. In a sense, amendment Nos 1 and 3 are the most substantive, in that they collectively provide for the benefits outlined in the Bill to be extended to those who have a miscarriage.

It is worth saying, before I get to the detail of the amendments and given that I am relatively new to debating the Bill, that this is a major step forward. I was not involved in the Second Stage debate, but, as the Member who spoke previously, who takes a different view on the amendments, said, the question of parental bereavement is extremely sensitive, life-changing and shattering for anybody who experiences it.

The Bill is an extremely welcome step forward. It is something profoundly positive that we can do and, hopefully, will do for people in this society, even if we have little time left as a result of not sitting for three years. Partially in response to some of what was just said about potentially rushing through legislation, I will point out that we were not doing any legislating here for three years. I will not get into the whys and wherefores of our not sitting, but the fact is that we were not. Therefore, there is probably an added burden on us to illustrate to the people who send us here, whom we represent and who, in a sense, pay our wages that we are doing something for them. The Bill is something substantive, as are the Committee amendments that are being discussed.

The Committee Chair went into detail about what the amendments do to extend the provisions of the Bill to people who suffer miscarriage. I will not go through the amendments in detail, but significant work went into developing them. I will touch on some of the questions that have been raised, including by the Minister today. The Minister has raised concerns, and, though I may not agree with him, he is entitled to use his offices to do that. His concern and that of the Department, which was outlined to us, including in correspondence that the Committee received yesterday, was that the Treasury could seek to restore parity because of the new rights that are being granted to people in Northern Ireland. First, it is worth saying that it is disappointing that we received that detailed information relatively late. We received a written update from the Department. Obviously, it is incumbent on all of us to take our fiscal management responsibilities seriously, but we do not yet have a detailed estimate of the costs; rather, we have an estimate — it is perhaps not even an estimate but a guesstimate — of what it could cost. The Minister said — I am sure that he will say it again in his closing remarks — that he has a responsibility to be serious about such things. I reiterate what the Committee Chair said: nothing in passing the amendments would commit the Assembly to a course of action that would necessarily lead to any repercussive financial effects. As has been said, we will have the opportunity to debate and vote on the regulations, and, of course, the Bill will have a Further Consideration Stage and a Final Stage. Therefore, from my and my party's perspective, I am afraid that the case that passing those new rights today would somehow commit us to potential repercussive costs has simply not been made yet; indeed, there are not —.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will give way in a second. There have not been any serious or robust examples given of where that has happened.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

This is probably more of a procedural point. The Member mentioned that, effectively, whatever we decide today would not necessarily be set in stone because of the further opportunities that we will have. However, the Member should be aware that we are dealing with the Bill's Consideration Stage, which is the main point at which amendments are made. Further Consideration Stage is, largely speaking, about a certain level of tweaking. The scope to make widespread amendments is much reduced at that stage. We should not blind ourselves by thinking that whatever decision we take today can simply be reversed at Further Consideration Stage if further information comes to light.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

First, I know what Further Consideration Stage is. I welcome the clarification from the Member, but I have been here for nearly two years and have been through a few substantive bits of legislation. It is also worth saying that I have had experience with previous legislation. I tabled amendments that involved an obligation on a Department, and it came back with clarifications at Further Consideration Stage.

Frankly, with respect, nothing said thus far by the Department has convinced me either that those repercussive costs are —.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will give way to the Minister in a moment.

Nothing has been said that has convinced me that those repercussive costs are likely — they are certainly not definite — or even that we would be committed to a precise course of action, bearing in mind what the amendment would do. It would give the Department a full year to come back after Royal Assent.

I give way to the Minister.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I appreciate the Member's giving way. I have a number of points. First, it was only after the Committee had finalised its report that it asked for more information on repercussive costs. We then went to the Department of Finance, which engaged with Treasury, and that forms the basis of the response that the Committee received yesterday, which sets out clearly the risks. It is important that those are taken on board, and the Committee cannot say that it has not had sight of that.

We only have to look back to the welfare debate in 2012-13 to see a previous example of when this happened. Although it was done in a different way, Treasury calculated what the saving would have been if the Northern Ireland Executive had implemented the welfare reforms. They did not, and that reduction was then applied to the block grant. It absolutely is the case that the Treasury has imposed financial penalties on the Northern Ireland Executive before when it has deemed fit to do so. The risk is there, albeit it is a small one, but we need to take that into consideration.

The final point is that, yes, we have the Further Consideration Stage and, yes, there is a period of 12 months to bring in the regulations, but the commitment is there to do it. We have to do it. We cannot make change during that period, because the Assembly will have already mandated what we have to do.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I appreciate all the points that the Minister has just made, but he closed by saying that the amendment today is committing to doing it. That is important, frankly, and, from my perspective, having borne in mind all the evidence that has been put before us, this is an opportunity to create a legal commitment. Sometimes in this place we get a little caught up with doing reviews, strategies and consultations on things that never deliver anything. We can all list countless examples of strategies, reviews and reports that we can consult on. Actually, this is an opportunity to put something meaningful into law. Yes, there will be the opportunity for the Department to design the detail of that, and, as the Committee Chair said, it will, in regulatory terms, come back to the Floor of the Assembly.

I will make a little more progress as we talk about the other amendments in the group. Amendment No 6 gives the Department a year, as has been said, after the Bill's passage to provide the regulations that will extend the benefits to those who have had a miscarriage. It is worth noting one of the arguments that was made previously. I reiterate that I came to the process relatively late, so I was not involved in scrutiny or discussion all the way through. I think that it was implied — someone can correct me if I am wrong — that this was not raised or was not a subject of concern for people during the consultation. I am not sure that that is true. This is a live subject for people who have experienced baby loss and miscarriage, and there is clearly a significant amount of stakeholder and third-sector attention on the issue. Amendment No 5 amends the commencement section of the Bill to reflect what is in amendment No 6, as I understand it.

One of the other issues that have been raised is the timing and the question of departmental capacity and whether, given purdah and everything else, 12 months is reasonable to do the consultation. The argument has been made that that is not a reasonable period. Well, I am not entirely convinced that a two-year period to do a consultation, with no legislative certainty about what comes afterwards, will seem entirely reasonable to those who have lobbied on this. As I said, there would be a two-year period to carry out the consultation and produce recommendations, and, after that, there would be a further period of legislative scrutiny before we actually passed anything around leave for miscarriage into law. Of course, during that time, many people would be affected.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I appreciate the Member's generosity in giving way. I have set out to Members across the House the difficulties that we will have with the timeline, and I am more than happy to do that again more substantively during the debate. Just because you may think that two years is too long to do the work does not mean that we should accept an amendment that clearly does not give us enough time to do what we want to do. On that point, I am flexible. I would say that, at the maximum point, that would be two years. I would be happy for that to be done much more quickly, but the point is that 12 months simply does not give us enough time to do what we need to do, as requested by the Committee amendment.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

OK. Thank you, Minister. Members will judge whether that is a reasonable period. I appreciate that you have made your intervention and acknowledge that that is the Department's position.

I am sure that the Minister will talk about amendment No 4 in more detail when he moves it. There are concerns about the two-year period and some of the questions that that raises about the Minister's consultation. It is my view that simply moving ahead with the Committee amendments would be preferable.

Amendment No 8 ensures that the regulations have to be approved by resolution of the Assembly. That, obviously, comes back to the point that we discussed about there being a degree of insurance there for the Assembly in further movement on these questions.

I will not go through amendment No 9 in any detail. It is relatively technical.

Those are my thoughts on the first group of amendments. We support the Committee amendments, and I appreciate the work that my predecessor and others on the Committee have done to move them forward. It is an extremely important Bill, and the amendments are not just a reasonable but an ethical response to a difficult challenge and an opportunity for us to make law here that will, hopefully, improve the lives of people in extraordinarily difficult situations.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

Thank you for giving away. The Member referred to the Minister's amendment and the amendment tabled by the Committee. Will you compare and contrast what those two amendments seek to achieve? The Committee amendment provides substantially more assurance for the House and those listening to us today that the outcome of the Bill will be delivered.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

My Committee colleague makes the point more effectively than I could. He has been on the Committee for longer and for more of the deliberation. He is right that the intention of amendment No 4 is for a consultation to be carried out and a report to be laid before the Assembly within two years. It does not even mandate further legislation after that. It does not mandate a review followed by a legislative response. It is simply a review that is laid in front of the Assembly.

The Committee amendments create a legislative obligation, but with a year for the Department to deliver on it. My party and I think that that is a better way to proceed, and so we endorse the Committee amendments.

Photo of Rosemary Barton Rosemary Barton UUP

Thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the principle of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill and in support of the Committee amendments.

There is nothing worse than the loss of a child and the grief surrounding that. We so look forward to a young life brought into this world, growing into adulthood, and we expect children to outlive their parents. At any time in the UK, around one in 10 workers is believed to be affected by bereavement. While there are organisations and employers who offer compassion and support at the time of a bereavement, in a survey of employees completed in Northern Ireland, one in seven bereaved parents said that they had not been offered a single day of paid bereavement leave. The impact of bereavement, particularly that due to the loss of a child, can have an adverse impact on the health and well-being of a parent.

Three days of paid bereavement allowance is quite frequent with many employers in Northern Ireland. That gives so little time for grief. There is a funeral to organise, as well as supporting a family and dealing with the necessary requirements and practical tasks following a funeral. Such a limited bereavement time means that loved ones return to work physically and emotionally exhausted and without the time, space or financial support to grieve properly or to come to terms with their loss.

Existing legislation in Northern Ireland does not define the duration of bereavement leave for a parent who needs time off work following a death, and the Bill that we are debating this afternoon will provide the necessary legislation for parental bereavement, including leave and pay considerations. Those considerations should include bereavement pay and leave from day 1 for the parent of a child under 18 years of age, including in cases of miscarriage and stillbirth. That leave will, hopefully, help and support parents as they come to terms with their grief.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill will be an important step in counterbalancing the legislation that is already in place elsewhere. The Ulster Unionist Party supports the Bill and the amendments.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance 3:15 pm, 30th November 2021

Thank you to everybody who has worked so incredibly hard to get us to where we are with the debate today. In particular, I thank my colleagues on the Economy Committee, who worked on the issue with incredible diligence; the staff on the Committee, who assisted us; and, indeed, all those people who came to speak to us about their desire to see the legislation being delivered in Northern Ireland.

The debate is not an easy one for the people affected to listen to, and we need to acknowledge that. That is why I wish to open by saying that, on the one hand, I understand, from my previous career, the Minister's arguments and reasons, as well as the pressures on civil servants and others to bring forward legislation that works and delivers. However, there are people out there who either have been through or may ultimately face the circumstances that the Bill is trying to provide for. It is those people I am thinking of today, and they are the reason why the Alliance Party will support the Committee's amendments. Indeed, Kellie Armstrong, who is one of my colleagues and from whom you will hear later in the debate, indicated very strongly when the legislation was mooted that she wished to bring forward the very amendments that have been brought to the House today. The issue affects individuals. I have no doubt that, later in the debate, you will hear what she has to say and her personal story.

It goes without saying that the loss of a child is, of course, profoundly sad and life-changing for the parents. Therefore, it is important that we welcome the introduction of legislation to support parents and caregivers at a deeply challenging point in their life. It is imperative that we, as legislators, do everything within our power to help to alleviate the financial struggles of a family at that point in time and to assist and provide the space to start a sometimes very lengthy grieving process.

As the law on parental bereavement leave currently stands, there is no automatic right to paid leave in Northern Ireland after the death of a child. That starkly contrasts with the position in the rest of the United Kingdom, where, since April 2018, there has been access to maternity and paternity leave after the birth of a stillborn. We in Northern Ireland are therefore running remarkably behind.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I appreciate the Member giving way. He makes an important point in that we are already far behind the rest of the UK on the issue. My concern is that, if we take the Bill through with those amendments, the implementation date of that provision will be pushed back from April 2022 to, potentially, April 2024. There is a small chance that we could get it through in 2023, but that is unlikely. Surely the more responsible thing to do would be to make sure that the provisions on parental bereavement leave and pay are implemented in April 2022 and to address the other issues subsequently. Surely people have waited for too long already.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

I do not pretend to understand all the technical nuances of what the Minister is telling us, but it seems to me that it should not be beyond the ability of the House or of those who have drafted and tabled the legislation to, in the space that remains between today and Further Consideration Stage, address that very issue to allow us to have the speediest implementation of the legislation. As I will develop in the discussion, that would also allow the Department the opportunity to come forward with further regulation. As my colleague Mr O'Toole indicated, the House would have absolute power over the delivery of that.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I appreciate the Member's giving way. This is a key point on which I had a very lengthy discussion with my officials last evening and this morning. It is not simply something that we should be able to get done. If we are now putting these two things together, preparatory work and consultation would need to be done. There would be the process of going back to the Committee and the regulations being put in place. It would need to go to HMRC, and we would then be dependent on its timetable. Of course, it cannot come in in the middle of the year; it would have to come in in either April 2023 or April 2024. There is nothing that we can do to push it on. If we want to see parental bereavement leave and pay in April 2022, we need to separate the issues and allow this to go forward. Can I, please, urge the House to do that? People have been waiting too long.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

I thank the Minister for what he has said but, for me, this goes beyond parental bereavement leave and covers, as I will develop, miscarriage as well. It is vital that we embrace that holistically in the legislation. This is, perhaps, a one-off opportunity to introduce the legislation. My fear is that supporting the Minister's amendment would allow a Minister in the future to be blown off course in the delivery of what we are trying to achieve. It is important that we work as hard as we can, in this debate and in the time remaining, to ensure that we deliver the Committee's intention.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I appreciate the Member's giving way. I understand the important point that he is making, which is that my amendment does not commit us, hard and fast, to bringing in regulation. From listening to the contributions of Members right across the House, I know that that is what we all want. However, it will not be possible to bring that in in the same period as parental leave. Therefore, given that all the preparatory work for parental bereavement leave and pay has been done, why can we, as a House, not take the decision today to go ahead with that and, then, address that other issue? I am prepared to table an amendment at Further Consideration Stage to make sure that that consultation report is done within one year. It will be tight, but we can do it. That would allow us to make sure that we have parental leave and parental pay in place in April 2022. Can we, please, take that route so that we ensure that this gets through? I do not think that you will see anybody in the House lacking in doing the necessary work on miscarriage.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

I understand what the Minister is saying, but, at this point in the debate and given today's subsequent vote, I am not prepared to leave this legislation to chance — to the chance that we will have a consultation and that that consultation will guide a future Assembly, a future Committee and a future Minister in what to do. I want to grasp the opportunity today. I understand what the Minister is saying about how that has the potential to push the time frame back and perhaps make things more difficult, but we have time to continue those discussions. For today, it is important that the Assembly sends out a very clear message and sets down a very clear marker on delivery.

No parent or caregiver should be tasked with dealing with the additional pressures of loss of income at what is already a stressful time. In Northern Ireland, some 450 employed parents struggle with the death of a child. There are, of course, many employers that are compassionate in such circumstances. I hope that today's debate will encourage more employers to think about how they can effectively implement what we are trying to achieve by way of legislation. There is absolutely nothing to stop them doing that today.

We need to ensure that, as a society, we have consistent and standardised statutory rights for workers. The Minister has brought forward a Bill that establishes an essential framework for the Department to build on. As you know, however, my fellow Committee members and I are concerned that the Bill does not go far enough. That is the goal that I seek to achieve today; that is where we need to move to. That is why the Committee did not consider the tabling of amendments lightly. Our first priority, and the first imperative on us, is to provide the comfort and financial support that is necessary not only for parental bereavement leave but for miscarriage leave. That is important, because miscarriage is a deeply traumatic and personal loss that requires protection identical to that which is in place for the loss of a child through stillbirth. It affects many women and their families and yet often continues to be discussed with hushed voices, if it is even discussed at all. I hope that extending the Bill to cover miscarriage can go some way towards ending the silence and the stigma.

We in the Economy Committee carefully considered the Bill. We listened to the words of individuals and stakeholders. We listened to trade unions, human rights organisations, bereavement charities and business representatives, all of whom encouraged us to table these amendments. They constantly raised one area of concern, which was that of when the payment should be provided. That goes beyond these amendments and into group 2, but I am happy to continue to speak to that at this stage. There is no justification for the protection coming only after 26 weeks of employment. No one should be any less entitled to compassion following the loss of a child. It is vital that we get legislation on such sensitive issues right. I understand what the Minister is saying, and I get the difficulties around this, but we are here to solve difficult problems; pushing them down the road will not solve this problem.

This Bill needs to cover miscarriage and ensure that that is a week-1 right. It is regrettable that the Department has not been able to work fully with us on these amendments. I accept that a lot of work has been done and a lot of discussion has taken place, but there is a gap that we need to narrow. We need to support these amendments. It is unfortunate, as others said, that the scope of the legislation has been affected by what has happened in the life of the Assembly, but we are where we are, and we have an opportunity to legislate. The Alliance Party believes that this is an important step towards fixing our outdated bereavement protections, and I am concerned that the playing field will continue to be uneven for everyone who falls outside the legislation. We have therefore pledged to bring forward legislation in the next mandate to deliver more comprehensive and compassionate leave, as we have heard requested by many of the people who came to the Committee.

In closing, I say that these provisions are long overdue. I thank the Minister and his predecessor for bringing the legislation forward; they are in the right place for having done so. They have considered this as part of their programme, and that is to be welcomed. In general, however, it is important that we do not just support the basic Bill but that we provide the enhancement that the Committee's amendments propose. The loss of a child is one of the worst things that anyone could imagine. Ensuring that workers are treated with compassion and given protection in those circumstances is simply the right thing to do. This is the day for the Assembly to make the bold decision to push the envelope as far as it can and to encourage the Department so that, hopefully, following today's debate, it will align with what the Committee is attempting to achieve by tabling its amendments. I hope that we will continue to work in the same direction to deliver for everybody who is affected by the Bill.

Photo of Órlaithí Flynn Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin 3:30 pm, 30th November 2021

I will repeat some of the comments that my colleague the Chair of the Economy Committee made earlier. Sinn Féin fully supports the implementation of the provisions of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, and I will also speak in support of the amendment to extend parental leave to parents who have lost a child to miscarriage before 24 weeks of pregnancy. They deserve to be supported, and they need compassionate leave from work in order to process and come to terms with what, for many, can be an extremely difficult and sad experience.

Mr Weir mentioned the wish to get the legislation in place as early as possible, and the Minister also referred to that. Yes, we absolutely do want that, but, as Mr Weir also said, it is about getting it right. The Minister mentioned aiming to get the legislation through by 2022, so that, come 2022, there will be leave and pay for all parents who have been bereaved. My concern, however, is —

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I appreciate the Member's giving way. The point that I have been making in interventions — I appreciate Members' generosity — is that, if the amendments are passed, we cannot have parental bereavement leave in April 2022. The issues become tied together, and that pushes it down the line to 2024. My approach is to have parental bereavement leave and pay now. We can then work on the miscarriage issue, and that provision can be in place for 2024. Alternatively, we can have both in place for 2024. My approach is surely better.

(Mr Principal Deputy Speaker [Mr Stalford] in the Chair)

Photo of Órlaithí Flynn Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his intervention, and I appreciate his viewpoint and the work of the Department in considering the issue. The point that I was going on to make was that, even if, in 2022, the legislation as it stands is in place for parental leave, it still excludes parents who have lost a baby through miscarriage. They will not be included in the legislation.

We know that there is a huge gap in support for parents who suffer miscarriage. I make this point to the Minister: when we talk about the gaps in support, we do not say that they are gaps in provision from the Department for the Economy exclusively. I am a member of the Health Committee, and we know that there are gaps in healthcare provision too. In debating this legislation, however, there is an opportunity for the Department for the Economy to fill some of the gaps in provision for miscarriages.

We know that maternity leave entitlements do not apply to mothers who have a miscarriage, but they apply to mothers who have a stillbirth. The legislation provides an opportunity, alongside the amendment, to support those who, in the past, have had little or no support in the workplace. In April, when the Miscarriage Association gave a presentation to MLAs at a meeting of the all-party group on women's health, we heard from it about the lack of specialist support and recognition for parents who experience or have experienced miscarriages.

Parents who have gone through that tragic, emotional experience and who gave feedback through surveys have been clear about what they want, and it cuts across all Departments: they want empathy, sensitivity and support. Financially, parental bereavement pay would be a great gesture of support from the Assembly and the Minister's Department to those parents.

The amendment, if passed, would lift a huge burden from parents who have experienced the feeling of being under pressure to return to work before they are ready. The Alliance Party Member who spoke before me touched on the stigma and shame that still surround miscarriage for a lot of parents. If the legislation is passed and the payment can be made, that will deal with some of the stigma and shame in the workplace by enabling people to have that conversation with their employer about not being ready to return to work because of the experience of their miscarriage. It is not acceptable that the current system does not allow for paid time off work following the loss of an unborn baby. That contributes to the shame that some people out there feel. For some people, pregnancy loss can form part of what causes a mental health problem, and, for some people who already have a mental health problem or illness, going through the experience of a miscarriage can make that illness worse. We know that some people may be given a diagnosis such as post-traumatic stress disorder. That is how serious a miscarriage can be to someone's life. People can go on to experience symptoms that make their life difficult for a very long time. Sometimes, the trauma of the loss of an unborn baby through miscarriage can cause intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and nightmares. Sometimes, what happens afterwards contributes to someone's going on to have mental health problems. Lots of people experience a combination of those things. If we do not invest in this now, some people will form mental health problems and illnesses down the line because they do not deal with their miscarriage or take the time off that they genuinely need. That has a knock-on effect on their ability to carry out the role that they need to perform in their working environment.

To give a sense of how large the problem is: it is estimated that as many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. It is a really horrible common experience that many people in the workplace go through, and they will require time off because of it. Hopefully, they will be able to avail themselves of the legal entitlement and frameworks that will be put in place, which will allow them to receive payment.

I thank the Committee Chair and all the Members who have spoken so far in this really important debate. I hope that the Department will work alongside the Committee, and that the Assembly will pass the amendments proposed to the legislation.

Photo of Keith Buchanan Keith Buchanan DUP

I support the Bill. I fully support miscarriage being included in the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, but its inclusion by means of amendment without full consultation would have implications for other employment law. The Minister for the Economy introduced the Bill on 1 June 2021. Although many of the amendments seem reasonable and compassionate, they require full consultation. We must ensure that they do not breach any parity principle with our counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Bill's aim is to ensure that Northern Ireland parental bereavement leave and pay will replicate the provisions in Great Britain and that employees in Northern Ireland are afforded the same employment rights as their counterparts in GB. The Department for the Economy hopes that the Bill can be introduced by April 2022. With that uppermost in our mind, the Bill's emphasis is on ensuring that working parents who experience stillbirth or child death are afforded the same employment rights as their counterparts in GB. In June 2020, the Department for the Economy opened a consultation to notify the Northern Ireland public of its intention to introduce for working parents in Northern Ireland similar parental bereavement leave and pay provisions to those that are provided under the GB Act. The consultation ran from 15 June 2020 until 10 August 2020 and received 36 responses from a variety of stakeholders. If further consultation were required, it would delay the Bill further, and it might not then be completed during this mandate. There would need to be an appropriate level of Assembly scrutiny of the regulations to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

Sadly, miscarriage is a loss that many couples experience. It is not a loss that is felt only by the mother, as it also impacts on and affects the father of the child. Many couples suffer that loss on a number of occasions. Each miscarriage causes pain and grief for both parents. The 2019 Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) figures for births — the Member who spoke previously referred to this — and the fact that the NHS estimates that one in eight pregnancies ends through miscarriage mean that there were approximately 3,200 miscarriages in Northern Ireland in 2019. Miscarriage support groups estimate that one in four pregnancies ends through miscarriage. That would increase the number of miscarriages to 7,500, so the figure is anywhere between 3,200 and 7,500. I looked at the figure this morning, and the number of babies born each year is approximately 24,000 or 25,000, so that puts in context the number of miscarriages compared with the number of children who are born.

Many parents carry the burden of miscarriage alone. If it was an early miscarriage, they may not have told their family about the pregnancy and, therefore, have no support network. That is the sad reality of many miscarriages. That loss can have a devastating effect on parents, and employers should always consider what is best for their employees, depending on their specific circumstances.

Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are common for anyone who experiences a death in the family, regardless of the age of the loved one who has passed on. There is no doubt or question that employers should support their employees in the same way that they would support them after any other death. We must also note that the GB Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act did not include provision for paid leave after miscarriage, and, therefore, there was no specific consideration of that referenced during the consultation exercise.

It should also be noted that in the Republic of Ireland, despite previous attempts to legislate in that regard, there is still no statutory entitlement to parental bereavement leave and pay; it remains largely at the discretion of the employer. Some employers have their own policy on parental leave. This year, as mentioned by the Committee Chair, Lidl Northern Ireland introduced a new policy to give employees three days of paid compassionate leave following an early pregnancy loss or miscarriage, along with access to a support system that includes 24-hour access to its dedicated employee-assistance programme for mental health.

If we are to change our employment law framework, either though this Bill or by way of a separate miscarriage Bill, without GB doing likewise, funding for the running costs would fall to the Northern Ireland Executive. In addition, there would be significant system set-up costs payable to HMRC. Although we remember that we are talking about the loss of a child — a precious life — and the very real grief of parents, we must also ask whether the proposed amendments to the Bill have been fully considered and consulted on. Have all aspects of the Bill and proposed amendments been considered, along with their wider implications for employment law?

It is estimated that the cost of the change would be £1·5 million. That does not include further consideration, should we deviate from the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018. There are potential repercussions for the Northern Ireland block grant and, in turn, the Executive's Budget, should NI make a legislative change that GB is then required to make when it is not GB policy to do so. I will not read out the quote from Her Majesty's Treasury on funding — the Committee Chair did that — but we cannot ignore it. Those costs have been estimated to be £100 million a year in the event of the United Kingdom Government insisting on receiving those costs. I therefore urge that full consideration be given, along with the necessary and required consultation, prior to any decision being taken to include miscarriage in the Bill.

Again, I stress that, although miscarriage is an emotive issue that affects the mother and father, we must ensure that the inclusion of miscarriage in any parental bereavement Bill has been fully consulted on and will not have further implications for other employment rights and laws. It is important to make good law properly; not swiftly or without due consideration and consultation.

I thank the Chair of the Committee, the officials from the Department and any organisation that gave evidence to the Committee.

Photo of Nicola Brogan Nicola Brogan Sinn Féin

I welcome the opportunity to participate in today's debate, because this is really important legislation and the rights that it contains are long overdue. The Bill recognises parental bereavement as being a significant issue that, unfortunately, affects the lives of so many people. Parents who experience the unimaginable pain of losing a child deserve to be supported and offered compassionate leave from work to give them some time to deal with the grief.

In an ideal world, for someone who has suffered a devastating loss, such as the loss of a child, work and finances should be the last things that they have to worry about. However, in reality, bills still need to be paid. They still need to pay their rent or mortgage, food needs to be put on the table and heating needs to be paid for. So, parental bereavement leave and pay, as discussed in the Bill, will offer some support to those who need it in the most difficult of times.

I am not a member of the Economy Committee, but I spoke in the Second Stage debate and supported the Bill's passage to Committee Stage. During Second Stage, I highlighted a number of concerns that I had with the Bill and areas that I hoped could be developed by the Committee. I am glad that the Minister and the Department for the Economy have agreed to include parental bereavement leave for those who suffer stillbirths. At Second Stage, I, along with a number of other Members, suggested that it should be extended to parents who suffer miscarriage.

I am pleased that the Committee has tabled amendments to include parents who have lost a child before 24 weeks of pregnancy due to miscarriage. We know the suffering that miscarriage can cause and the devastating impact that it can have on parents and families, so it is important that we extend the support to them.

As my colleague Órlaithí Flynn said, there is a gap in support for parents who suffer a miscarriage. Representative organisations such as the Miscarriage Association have found that there is a lack of specialist support and recognition for parents who experience miscarriages. Again, as Órlaithí said, maternity leave entitlements do not apply to mothers who have a miscarriage. Parents who were surveyed by the association said that they felt under pressure to return to work before they were ready.

This Bill is an opportunity for us in the North to set a trend, to be at the fore and to show compassion to parents who miscarry a baby by including them in the Bill and by providing support to those who, in the past, have had little or no support. It is my understanding that we would be the first jurisdiction in the northern hemisphere to extend the rights to parents who suffer miscarriage. It would be a positive step, so I will support the Committee amendments and hope that the Assembly will do so as well.

Photo of Stephen Dunne Stephen Dunne DUP 3:45 pm, 30th November 2021

I, too, welcome the opportunity to speak on this important issue at the Consideration Stage of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill. I was not a Member when the Bill went through its Second Stage, but the Committee and the Department have done a considerable amount of work, and, in that time, I have certainly recognised the Bill's importance. This Bill follows the introduction of parental bereavement leave and pay legislation by our UK Parliament in April 2020 through the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018. It would create a statutory entitlement to leave and pay for working parents who suffer the death or stillbirth of a child.

At the outset, I join others in thanking all the organisations and bodies that engaged with the Economy Committee on this important matter through the Department's public consultation on the Bill, which ran between June and August 2020, including those who shared personal, moving and traumatic stories of their loss. Throughout the consultation and engagement process, there was strong support across Northern Ireland for the Bill. That highlights the importance of getting it right and ensuring that we see no further delays in delivering this most important legislation and support where it is needed.

I commend the many charities that support bereaved parents daily across our country, as well as the support workers in our health trusts. I acknowledge the input and work of the Minister and his officials in ensuring that bereaved parents get the support that they deserve, the engagement that the Department has had with the Committee and the work of our Committee staff, whom I thank.

The loss of a child is truly devastating for any family. It not only impacts on the parents; family members, carers and relatives can also be significantly affected by such a tragedy. It is completely understandable that working parents who experience such a bereavement will need the compassion and support of a caring employer. We are fortunate that many employers act responsibly and make provision for paid compassionate leave. Such leave has no statutory protection, however, and may cover only a few days. Moreover, not all employees will be in that fortunate position.

The purpose of the Bill was always to ensure that employees who suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth would have a statutory entitlement to two weeks' leave and that, in most cases, working parents would also be entitled to a statutory payment, bringing much-needed clarity, certainty and support to employers and employees and a statutory safety net for working parents who suffered such a profound loss. It would also Northern Ireland into line with Great Britain in providing parental leave, pay and employment protections and affording the same employment rights for workers.

In 2020, according to Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) statistics, 69 stillbirths and 93 infant deaths were registered here. Each of those represents a wide network of family, friends and carers who are equally affected. During Committee Stage, we learned that child deaths affect approximately 450 working parents here every year. The sad and tragic statistics confirm the need for the Bill, for our being here today and for our having introduced the Bill in the first place. I am glad and grateful that former Minister Dodds did that.

The facts and figures also reaffirm the need for any legislation to be carefully considered and fully and extensively consulted on. Some of my colleagues have also touched on that point. We cannot ignore the real and stark financial risks that exist and the fact that there would be a cost to breaking parity on such an important issue. That was brought home to those of us on the Economy Committee when we received a written briefing in response to engagement between Department of Finance officials and HM Treasury, just yesterday, on 29 November. The Department stated:

"if the UK Government sought to restore parity as a result of the amendments made to the NI Bill, the estimated liability would be £100 million per annum".

It would be responsible for us all to take serious stock of that and to fully consider all the consequences.

We do not want to see further delays in working parents getting the support that they deserve. Bereaved parents have already suffered so much trauma, and having to wait even longer would be regrettable and totally unacceptable. If the Committee amendments were passed and the Bill was not able to deliver in the time frame, as the Minister has warned numerous times today and in correspondence with the Committee, it would be a regrettable step. The reality that the benefits of the Bill may not be delivered until April 2023 or, indeed, April 2024 —.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Stephen Dunne Stephen Dunne DUP

No, you will have plenty of time. That is of great concern, and every effort must be made to ensure that it can be delivered on time, as the Minister has already warned.

Miscarriage is an extremely sensitive and complex matter, and there can be many stages to it. Miscarriage can bring such devastation to so many families, and, unfortunately, some families can suffer multiple miscarriages, which multiplies the long-lasting grief. I know from speaking to close friends that the pain and devastation that it can bring is real and traumatic and can last for many years. As has been mentioned in the debate, it is estimated that it can affect between one in four and one in eight pregnancies, which, again, highlights its seriousness.

Whilst the Committee's amendments raise important issues and the need for improved support around miscarriage, I do not believe that it is best to support them at this stage, and I do not believe that they can be achieved as quickly as they are needed. I am glad that the Department recognises the need for a full and comprehensive review around a full assessment of employment law and our framework across Northern Ireland. However, the reality is that that work around employment law will not be completed in the relatively short window of time that we have left in the mandate. All will be better looked at collectively by the Department with full consultation, engagement and focused outcomes delivering the best for those who have to contend with such devastating circumstances.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I am taking an intake of breath here because, as Members will know, this is something that is very close to my heart. I start off by declaring an interest: of my 14 pregnancies, 13 ended in miscarriage. I have been a bereavement counsellor for Remember our Child, which was the Northern Ireland miscarriage organisation. Unfortunately, it is no longer there, but we have the Miscarriage Association. As I said at Second Stage, I apologise if the debate triggers upset for any parents who have lost a child.

I thank the Minister for introducing the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill. You have no idea how much that will help parents across Northern Ireland. I also thank the Committee for tabling the amendments to include miscarriage. We are the forgotten grief; we are the taboo grief; and we are always left behind. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

As my colleague said, I was working on amendments. I decided not to take those amendments forward when it became clear that the Committee was taking forward amendments that appeared on the Marshalled List. I was going in the same direction as the Committee. We have the opportunity to move Northern Ireland forward and to be a leader in recognising that parents who lose a child during pregnancy before 24 weeks matter.

I have miscarried and, unfortunately, miscarried many times, and the only reason why I am not in tears here is that I promised lots of parents that I would stand on their behalf. I was an employee in a number of companies, and, while lots of Members have said here that there are great employers, that was not my experience. The long-term cost of not recognising miscarriage in employment happened to me. I had three months off on the sick, and a doctor put me on diazepam to cope with the grief. Eventually, after three months, when he decided that I was not going to throw myself off a cliff, he took me off the diazepam and sent me home with a note to go back to work. I left that work. I was a skilled employee in each of those jobs, and I left them. I said, "Stuff them", because I was sitting beside other pregnant women. I was sitting in a room with people whose families had all those joyful occasions, and there I was, the pain sitting in the corner. Nobody wanted to talk about my grief or why I got sad on different dates. The long-term impact of miscarriage damages our workforce.

I want to talk about the money side of things. I will just say to every Member who is worried about the money that, when you have had a miscarriage, you could not give two hoots about the money, because you are grieving the death of that possibility and of the child who will not be there. Let us set the money aside. Minister, I will get to your amendment No 4 and say why there is a problem with it, but I will say this to every Member: do not assume that anybody who has had a miscarriage will look for miscarriage leave. Someone on the DUP Benches made a good point, which was that, when you have had an early miscarriage, you have not told anyone. Believe me: while you may say that there are good employers, there are still many employers who do not want women of childbearing age in their workforce because they will take maternity leave. So women hide it. I hid it, because I did not want to face it time and time again with HR and explain that I was off work for the third time that year because I had had another miscarriage. I could have been sacked. That is one of the realities of being a woman employed in Northern Ireland.

Some of you have complained that people who have miscarried did not respond to the consultation: of course we did not. Why would we? It was not in the Bill. I am used to not being treated as a grieving mother. I am used to being treated as that embarrassment sitting in the corner. The way that the Bill was originally drafted did not include me. It did not want me or see me as important.

Minister, I cannot support your amendment No 4. I come at the issue in a very different way. You have no hope of completing that consultation on the new clause. I say that because new clause 3A(2) states:

"The consultation may include, in particular, consultation as to— (a)whether the entitlements should be conferred in all cases where a person has had a miscarriage, or only in some cases".

As somebody who has had a miscarriage, I could not answer that, because you are making those of us who have had miscarriages different. You are segmenting even the group who have had miscarriages.

New clause 3A(2)(b) says:

"whether the entitlements to be conferred in such cases should be the same as, or different from, the entitlements that are conferred where a child has died".

I had 13 children who died in my womb. They are dead children. Amendment No 4 seems to insinuate that mine were not children. I just cannot cope with that.

New clause 3A(2)(c) says:

"whether anyone other than the person who has had the miscarriage should also to be entitled to leave or pay".

That refers to any father or other mother. I cannot stand by that. After the years that I have been in miscarriage bereavement counselling with people, I know that those are the very words that cause people harm and years-long anguish.

New clause 3A(2)(d) says:

"whether different entitlements should be conferred in different cases of miscarriage."

If you lose a baby before 24 weeks, you lose a baby. I also have to say, Minister, that I am really sorry, but the evidence that you are looking for is not there. Where will you find that evidence? From years of working in the miscarriage field, I know that, when you ask how many people in Northern Ireland have had miscarriages and you go to the health records, you get the records only of those who appeared at a hospital and had a miscarriage. That is as few as one in 10 of those of us who have had miscarriages. I was in hospital to have the remains removed only in the last of my 13 miscarriages.

Minister, your consultation is based on information that will cause such harm to people who have had miscarriages that they will not answer it. You will not get information about how many employees have come forward to say that they are miscarrying or have miscarried because of the fear of their employer's and HR's rules. Currently, they will not come forward with it. I am concerned about that.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I appreciate the Member's giving way. I thank her for the way in which she has approached this sensitive topic. I just want to make it clear that we are not insinuating anything when we ask those questions.

We are trying to make it as open as possible. We are saying to people, "Tell us how and when you think this should apply". If you look at the wording, you will see that we are trying to say, "We are coming here with no preconceived ideas. We simply want you to tell us". I can understand why many people might not want to take part in that consultation, but that is not a reason for not opening it up to consultation and telling people that we want to hear from them. For everyone who might say, "I do not want to take part in that consultation", there will be others, like you, who say at the start, "I want to be included. I want to be involved". That is why this is the best way forward.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance 4:00 pm, 30th November 2021

Thank you, Minister.

I come to my main point on amendment No 4. Amendment No 4, new clause 3, will bring forward a report, not legislation. I am sorry: my grief about pregnancy loss at 16 weeks, 12 weeks or 6 weeks is exactly the same as that of someone who is 24 weeks plus three days; I am not different. I am not a report; I deserve legislation, and so do all the other mums and dads out there. When I saw amendment No 3 to clause 2 and its inclusion of miscarriage from the very start, I thought, "Do you know what? That is what we need. We need parents who have suffered baby loss to be included from day 1". They should not be excluded, with the possibility of a report a couple of years down the road. I am sorry, Minister: I cannot agree with you on that.

On the money side of things, you have 12 months. If the Committee's amendments go through, there are 12 months. Why not have a real conversation with people who have miscarried during that 12 months? You will find out how many of us actually request time off from our employers and how many want to be involved. These amendments will, at long last, allow parents who have had a miscarriage to not be treated as the taboo and to be able to come forward and say, "I have had a loss, and I need a bit of time".

I want to point out to all of you something that I noticed in the Bill. I had thought of amending it, as one has not come forward on it so far. Under "Rate and period of pay", subsection (5) states:

"For the purposes of subsection (2), the qualifying period is to be determined in accordance with regulations, which must secure that it is a period of at least 56 days beginning with the date of the child’s death."

If you miscarry, you do not know when your child has died inside you. Quite often, you only know the date when that was confirmed by a negative pregnancy test. It is quite callous and hard to say that. Why is it 56 days? Why is it not 56 weeks? The anniversary of a child's death is one of the hardest —

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

The Department has clarified that it will be 56 weeks in the legislation.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Thank you for that. It was very hard for me to understand why anyone would think that the first 56 days is the only time that you grieve for a child. The anniversary of a child's death can often trigger deep, deep sorrow in a couple and a family. When siblings get the opportunity to commemorate their brother or sister's death, that is a hard time. The clarification that it is 56 weeks is fantastic.

At the start, when I saw amendment No 4, I thought, "Oh, they are going to ask people who have had a miscarriage what they actually think". Then, when I read it, Minister, I had to say, "Back to school on this one". Language is key with baby loss. The language used in your amendment No 4 would appear in the Bill, and that language is horrendous. As a bereavement counsellor, I know that that language is not good enough. That language shows that the Bill is all about money and not about people, albeit I understand that the Bill comes from the Department for the Economy.

I once helped the Department of Health write a bereavement leaflet for couples who had experienced miscarriage following IVF. At the start, the language that people were coming out with was callous. We got the language changed so that it was more user-friendly. Amendment No 4 is callous. I cannot accept it, one, because of the language and, two, because it defines people who have miscarried as something separate, something different and something unusual. Whether people are entitled or not, that amendment sets a scene that is not good enough.

I will support the Committee amendments. I can support amendment No 10, which was proposed by the Minister, because it adds miscarriage to the long title, but, at this stage, the assumptions about the consultation and the amount of money that he thinks it will cost are wrong. That is why I tabled a motion that asks for a register of miscarriages that happen at home, which is the majority of them; of miscarriages that are notified to GPs, which is some of them; and of the very few miscarriages that happen in hospitals, so that we can get some figures.

Believe me, I would not have been going to any of my employers, even with the Bill coming forward, to ask for miscarriage leave, because, unfortunately, my miscarriages were all early, and it was not the time for me to tell my employer. There will be a lot of people like that. You have to prove that you have had a miscarriage. That negative pregnancy test is how you prove that you have lost an early pregnancy. Minister, there is a lot of work to be done. At this stage, we get that work done by putting miscarriage into the legislation.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

I thank Kellie Armstrong for her powerful testimony again. The aim of the Bill ought to receive the support of every MLA in the Chamber. I add my voice to those welcoming the Bill. It has been a long time coming, and — dare I say? — it is quite a shocking indictment of our society and its employment practices that, in 2021, we are only now debating concrete legislative support to provide bereavement pay and leave to workers who are parents and have had to face the greatest of all fears: losing a child.

During the pandemic, everyone across our society has grown to value the role of our front-line workers. The COVID pandemic has brought a new onus to recognise the role that workers play in our society, but it has also put a spotlight on things like low pay and the lack of support and legal protections for those workers. One area that has been highlighted is the lack of legal support and protection for workers who face bereavement amidst the health crisis, during which far too many people had to bury loved ones. My heart goes out to every single parent in the world who has had to cope with losing a child.

I support the Bill. I also support amendment No 1 and all the consequential amendments that follow the move to include those who have experienced miscarriages. I support the inclusion of stillbirths, although that is not in the amendments today. It is entirely appropriate to include miscarriages in the legislation, and I welcome the fact that debate at Committee level has brought that about. I will support amendment No 1. I hope that that amendment passes instead of amendment No 4, which I do not support, because I do not feel that it is necessary to consult on the issue over a two-year period, and nor do I want to see a situation in which the Chamber picks and chooses which people experiencing miscarriages are or are not worthy of support.

Obviously, it is a very difficult subject and one that must be approached with the utmost sensitivity and respect. No parent should ever have to grieve for a child, but it is an awful reality for some parents, and there is a duty on decision makers and leaders to provide as much support as possible for those who have to face that traumatic, life-changing experience. For that reason alone, the legislative move to provide for parental bereavement pay is welcome. The Bill will bring things here into line with legislation across the water, where such provision already exists.

As I said, it is an indictment on our society that the Assembly is only doing this now and that we are playing catch-up with Britain. Up until now, employed parents who have found themselves dealing with bereavement have been left to deal with it alone with their employers, without any legislative support in place for paid time off work. No doubt, there are many employers who treat the issue with compassion and humanity and have their own provision in place when the situation arises, but, as we heard, there are also employers who do not have decent provisions in place and do not meet the situations with the humanity and compassion that is needed. It is frightening to think that, in the context of a parent's worst hour of need, some parents are not supported properly and have financial and employment concerns heaped on top of their grieving process. The legislation can help to correct that wrong and, therefore, is clearly welcome.

As welcome as the legislation is, I also wish to raise the contact that I have had with the Coalition for Bereaved Workers, a campaign that has support from the trade union movement as well as a number of charities. The coalition has stated how the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill is a crucial first step, but, once it becomes law, we need to go further still and grant the same protections to everyone who is bereaved of a close relative or partner. That would ensure that so many more people are given the time, space and financial security that they need to begin grieving away from work.

I am glad to say that my party and its councillors in Belfast City Council and Derry and Strabane District Council have proposed motions to those respective councils based on the coalition's call to action in the hope of securing two weeks' bereavement pay for all workers affected by the bereavement of a close relative. I hope that those councils lead the way on that issue and that others follow, because, crucially, we must listen to the voices of those impacted by bereavement — parents, workers and their trade union representatives — in the hope that those voices are heard and are allowed to strengthen the legislation, if it needs to be strengthened. I look forward to doing that, and, if I can play a role in helping one person who has faced losing a child or another relative, it will have been a worthwhile endeavour indeed.

In conclusion, I am very concerned that in yesterday's discussion on domestic abuse leave and today's debate on parental bereavement leave, there has been a focus on cost. Frankly, that is obscene. We should not be counting pennies and pounds when we are talking about dealing with extremely difficult and traumatic experiences for people. The focus should be on supporting those who need help, support and time off; not on prioritising financial concerns. I hope that the Minister takes that into account in his response to the debate today.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

Before I begin, I thank the Committee Chair and the Committee for their work at Committee Stage. We all share a desire to ensure that we provide the best level of support for working parents in Northern Ireland who find themselves in the heartbreaking circumstances of losing a child. Few experiences could be worse for any parent or carer, and it is right that anyone who finds themselves in that terrible situation has all the support and help that they require.

I also thank the Members who spoke today and all who contributed during the passage of the Bill. I especially wish to take a moment to acknowledge the experiences of personal loss and suffering that have been bravely shared in the Chamber. That is not an easy thing to do, but it demonstrates that those of us who are tasked with the role of legislators often face those dreadful events in our own lives and in our own families.

When the Bill was first brought to the Executive by my colleague Diane Dodds, it was in recognition of the fact that bereaved working parents here were not provided with the same level of support as is given to bereaved working parents across the rest of the UK. At that time, it was also recognised that we had an extremely short window of opportunity remaining in this mandate but that this was a priority for her and the Department. I share that desire to ensure that we close the gap.

Given the limited time that we have and the challenges of responding to COVID-19, many employment law issues must wait until the next mandate to be addressed. Parental bereavement leave and pay could easily have been one of those issues, but, in recognition of the singular importance of parental bereavement and an opportunity to secure the passage of a very specific Bill in the remainder of this mandate, Diane decided not to wait. That was the right thing to do then, and it is still the right thing to do now.

The tight focus on the time remaining was also one of the key reasons why the Bill was solely focused on the issue of parental bereavement, trusting that it would secure the support needed and ensuring that the required secondary legislation would be straightforward and in place at the earliest opportunity in April 2022. Officials in the Assembly and in my Department, my predecessors as Minister and, indeed, Committee members have worked tirelessly to ensure that we achieve that date. Unfortunately, however, the passage of the Bill now faces a real threat.

I acknowledge that the amendments moved by the Chair of the Committee are undoubtedly well-intentioned. Worded as they are, however, they are likely to scupper the legislation. Were the Bill to progress with the Committee amendments incorporated into it, it would be likely to push the introduction of parental bereavement leave far beyond April 2022, most likely to April 2024. That is because of the extensive system changes that would be required in HMRC, the extensive changes that payroll software developers would have to make and the requisite notice periods before development work can begin.

The amendments also run the risk of disrupting the content of the Bill so comprehensively that it may not be possible to implement it at all —

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

— due to potential unintended consequences and possible ruinous repercussive costs. I will give way to the Member.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I appreciate that this is a point that we have covered to some extent. I do not know whether there is any more detail that the Minister can give on the time frame. One of the major differences between the Department's amendment and the Committee's amendment is the time frame and whether this is achievable within one year. I do not know whether he can give the House any more detail on the timeline. From experience, I know the length of time that these things take, and the House needs to know what is realistic and what is not.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP 4:15 pm, 30th November 2021

I appreciate the Member's intervention, and I refer him to comments from other Members. The Chair of the Committee said it was up to me to lay this out. Mr Dickson said:

"I do not pretend to understand all the technical nuances of what the Minister is indicating to us".

I therefore want to take a little bit of time to do just that and explain why 12 months is not a realistic prospect in which the legislation can be brought in.

Once Royal Assent had been granted, for the statutory rules (SRs) to be drafted and in place would take four months. We would also have the miscarriage policy development process commencing, including research, benchmarking, impact assessments, cost assessments, drafting of the consultation paper and engagement with the Committee, if required. That would be likely to take four months.

The document would then have to go to the Minister for approval and consultation. There would follow further engagement with the Committee and then Executive approval: another six weeks. That would be 10 weeks for the consultation process, including two weeks that would be lost over Christmas. Departmental analysis and assessment of the consultation responses would take four weeks. Ministerial approval of the departmental response, and engagement with the Committee to seek Executive approval, would take another six weeks. It would therefore take four to six months to commence the drafting of the regulations. Of course, that might take longer than usual, as there is no GB template to follow. It would also require extensive engagement with the Departmental Solicitor's Office (DSO) and across the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS).

It would take four weeks for the draft rules to be made, and if the SRs were then approved by the Assembly, commencement could be October 2023. The introduction date for the new employment right would be April 2024, however, as all new employment rights commence at the start of the tax year. That is why it would be pushed back until that time. I have said that to Members time and time again in the Chamber.

I have taken the time over the past 24 hours to meet the larger parties, in some cases twice. I have offered further meetings to explain why the House needs to accept my amendments. Otherwise, it will not be the case that the regulations will get through in April 2022. That is why there is a very clear choice for the House to make.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Thank you very much for giving way, Minister, and I thank you for setting out that timescale. We have just come out of COVID, however, when things could be turned around quite quickly. I ask the Minister this: can he please be careful with his words? What this sounds like to me is, on one side, parents who miscarried holding back everyone else who lost a child. That is how it comes across. Can we please just accept the fact that there are ways in which we can do things quicker in this place? We have done them quickly, although perhaps not exactly right, especially during COVID with some of the grants, but where there is a will, there may well be a way.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

There is potential for us to do that, if we go down the proper consultation route and the process that I outlined that would follow my amendments. Of course, if we could hurry that up, I would want to see that happen.

There are lots of competing priorities, however. You have to realise the small size of my employment law team. You have to understand that a number of regulations have to be brought in. You have to understand that there are competing Bills that will be taking up my team's attention. We were here only yesterday debating another employment Bill. There are other private Members' Bills coming through. In addition, as other Members said, there are a number of outstanding employment issues before the House, including the need to have a full employment Bill, because of all the other issues that still need to be addressed.

This is not a case of us taking our time or not progressing the legislation. The timeline is fairly accurate as to the way in which the process goes. It is very hard to shorten them, and it is only right, because of the seriousness of this issue, that we give the legislation the attention that it deserves.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I appreciate the Minister's giving way. In a previous piece of legislation that I did work on, and on which Ms Armstrong worked, too — the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill — I tabled an amendment creating an obligation on the Department to do a review. My amendments were successful at Consideration Stage. The Department did not want them to pass in the first place, saying that the legislation was not going to be achievable in the time frame. At Further Consideration Stage, it then took a regulatory-making power to give the Department, if required, more time. The Department could come back to the Assembly and ask for more time via, I think, the negative resolution procedure. Is that not possible in this case? Would it not be possible for the Department to come back at Further Consideration Stage with an amendment that included, for example, a regulatory-making power, giving it more time, specifically on the miscarriage component, should that be necessary?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

If it was a small technical change to extend the amount of time for the regulations to come in, it would help. However, because of the way in which the amendments are drafted, they all stick together. Yes, you could give us more time to do that; however, it would still push back the parental bereavement leave and pay element.

I take the point that Ms Armstrong made that it is not about pitting people against each other. However, it has been a number of years since legislation was introduced elsewhere in GB. Why can we not take those two issues and pull them apart? An extensive amount of work was done to get it ready for April 2022. Let us do that and find that other way to progress the miscarriage legislation as much as possible.

Ms Flynn was, at least, honest about it. She said that she would rather have nothing in place in 2022 and everything in 2024 because she wanted the two to be brought in together. If that is the will of the House, so be it. However, it has to understand that that will be the consequence. If we keep those things tied together, it will be 2024 before they are implemented.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I thank the Minister for giving way. The reason why I do not want stillbirths or children who die after birth to be divided from miscarriages is the mental health harm that miscarriage causes to parents. They are hidden away behind curtains in hospitals because nobody wants to catch that miscarriage bug. It has harmed women, in particular, for years. Let us not do that. Let us not go down that pathway.

Minister, I hope that you can recognise that it is wider than your remit and portfolio in Economy. It is about the mental health and well-being of parents, in particular women, who lose children during miscarriage. If we tell them that they are too difficult or that their loss is not the same, it will cause harm. That is an unintended consequence that needs to be considered.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I do not think that anybody could have listened to the debate that took place in the House today and say that we want to treat people and families who have gone through miscarriages any less than they are treated anywhere else. However, it is simply the reality that the work has been done and progressed on a single issue. I want to see progress and movement on both issues, but I do not want them to be delayed to that point. That is why my amendment has been tabled and why I tried to work with the Committee to get to a point where we could agree.

Those are, clearly, the options that we have in front of us. We can go for parental bereavement leave and pay in April 2022. I commit to bringing forward the consultation report on miscarriage, and I will expedite that as much as I can. However, we will not be able to bring that in before 2024 anyway. What do we want? Do we want both in 2024 or one in 2022 and, then, to work on the other and give it the time, the consultation and the serious consideration that it requires?

I want to move on and talk a little bit about the financial implications. Before the Bill was introduced, it received the unanimous support and backing of my Executive colleagues. That Executive support was for a Bill with an estimated cost of £100,000 per year. I know that we would all share the belief that you cannot put a value on the death of a child. To attempt to do so misses the underlying aims that the Bill seeks to achieve. The Bill not only seeks to guarantee a modest level of financial support to bereaved working parents but it sets a benchmark and, very much, a baseline against which all employers must compare.

Many good employers already provide comprehensive support to bereaved working parents that goes well beyond the levels that are outlined in the Bill. Like all family-related employment legislation, the Bill seeks to set the minimum level of support that employers must provide — a safety net below which no employee should fall. Good employers lead and all employers should be expected to follow in supporting their staff much more than that minimum level at a time when they most need it.

When we discuss the financial implications of the amendments, we are, therefore, not examining the value of a child, for that is unmeasurable. As elected representatives, we are entrusted by those who elected us. The trust placed in us ensures that we do not reach difficult decisions lightly, including those involving public finances. It ensures that we carefully weigh up and consider the implications of our spending decisions. That is why we have an Assembly and an Executive, why we have Committees and departmental officials engaged in policy development, and why we have public consultation. It is all to ensure that we are responsible in our approach and that spending decisions are made following due and careful consideration of detailed policy development and following public consultation. We should not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of judging the success or failure of a mandate based on the volume of new law that we create. As the former president of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, said in his Tom Sargant lecture in 2013:

"there is a welter of ill-conceived legislation – poor in quality and voluminous in quantity. The result is little more than the illusion of action without much in the way of the reality of achievement, coupled with uncertainty and confusion about the law."

Let me be clear: I am fully supportive of the desire to support working parents who suffer the heartbreak of miscarriage — I said as much consistently throughout the Committee Stage of the Bill — but I also fully support following the proper processes of policy formulation, consulting on and assessing the unintended consequences of legislation, and ensuring that new law, well-intentioned as it may be, is both necessary and easily implemented.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you, Minister. I want to go back, if I may, to one of the comments that the Minister made earlier about the binding together of the miscarriage provisions with the broader provisions of parental leave, just out of interest, given that amendment Nos 1 and 3 both involve an insertion "at end". In both cases, it is adding "Application in relation to miscarriage" after "Application in relation to stillbirths". The upshot of what he seems to be saying is that passing these amendments today means that, for ever more, unalterably, you could not — for example, at Further Consideration Stage — make the miscarriage amendments subject to what we talked about before: a negative resolution in the Assembly, where the power to come back and review is extended should the Department need more time. Would it not be possible to simply add a further amendment at the end of either the revised clause 2 or the revised clause 1 to say that the timing of these provisions is subject to approval via negative resolution in the Assembly, subject to the other review clause that we talked about, if I am making sense?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I think that I know what the Member is saying, but that would not take away from the commitment to make sure that these are brought in together. It would still mean that the 2022 date would not be possible for parental bereavement leave and pay. That is the issue. Because of the way in which it is drafted, the two are together. I am more than happy to give way to the Member if he is looking for further clarification on that point.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you. I appreciate the Minister's giving way. What I am asking is this: is it his view that it would not be possible to amend the Bill at Further Consideration Stage, if necessary? I am not conceding, either on my own behalf or on behalf of the Committee, that it is necessarily necessary, but is it the position that they cannot be, as it were, decoupled at all in a way that allows the provision of everything but miscarriage to come in in April 2022 and the miscarriage provisions to come in later? It seems strange to me that that is completely out of scope for Further Consideration Stage. I am just asking the question.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I suppose that the short answer to that is that I am not be able to say with any degree of certainty that that would be the case. As we know, Further Consideration Stage is mostly for technical adjustments. What you are proposing would perhaps be considered a more significant amendment. Again, that is why it is important that this is well thought-out, that we discuss this and that we look at all the potential implications of it. If I get further clarity on that, I will give it to the Member, but the important thing to realise is that it is normally very unusual to undo, at a later stage, what is done at Consideration Stage.

However, if I can provide further information on that to the Member, I will.

This is why I tabled my amendment on the issue of miscarriage, and I believe that it is a reasonable and appropriate compromise. It places a statutory obligation on the Department to consult on policy options for miscarriage. In listening to the House today, although we cannot of course bind a future Assembly or Executive, it is the clear will of the House that those recommendations would be given careful consideration. I have already set out the difficulties for us to do that right now.

I remind Members that the Bill is the result of painstaking work carried out over a number of years, involving wide-ranging consultation with members of the public, employer and employee representative groups and other stakeholders. Substantial, in-depth legal advice has been taken, and that is how legislation should be developed, with due care and the close involvement of a number of significant stakeholders. Were we to proceed without the proper consultation and policy in this way, it would show disregard for the process.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance 4:30 pm, 30th November 2021

I appreciate the Minister giving way. You said that your amendment effectively says that your intention is that it is reasonable to consult. The interface between that position and that of the Committee is that we believe that "reasonable to consult" is not sufficient to deliver the imperative to provide for miscarriage. It allows too much latitude. That is why the amendment is present. The Department cannot be bound by "reasonable to consult". That is why there is a sincere intention to include a requirement in the legislation.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

OK. We have two issues. There is the consultation process and the way in which we properly develop it and make sure that we find out the views of stakeholders. That will take a little bit longer than the impossible timeline that has been presented through the Chair of the Committee's amendment. Regardless of the way in which it is brought about, it will take time. It will still be two years before this can be brought in. My amendment says this: why not use some of that time to consult, to see what people think and what the potential unintended consequences could be? That is a fair way of doing it. The 2024 miscarriage pay cannot be brought in until then anyway, so why would we not use that time to consult beforehand? Again, I point you back to the comments that have been made around the House. We see the clear direction, and that gives some comfort to Members.

I advised the Committee of two sets of costs. The first set, resulting from the removal of the 26-week qualifying period and the addition of miscarriage, amounted to £3 million per year, with set-up costs raising the figure to £4·5 million in the first year. The Executive supported the Bill on the understanding that the cost would be £100,000, not £3 million, not £4·5 million and certainly not £104·5 million in its first year alone and potentially £103 million each year after that. Members heard me correctly: costs of over £100 million per year is the risk.

The first set of costs, £3 million per year, is 30 times the original amount, and the second set of costs, about which the Committee was also advised, are the potential repercussive costs of making the provision throughout the UK in line with the parity principle, which risks losing over £100 million per year from the Executive Budget .

Photo of Stephen Dunne Stephen Dunne DUP

I thank the Minister for giving way. He is right to raise the real potential financial risk to the Executive. Has he engaged with the Finance Minister or the Treasury on those issues?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I have. I raised this issue following a request from the Economy Committee. The Department of Finance spoke to the Treasury and sent us a response in which it set out the potential repercussive cost. The Department of Finance has told us that, in addition to the extra cost of £2·3 million, there remains a risk that, if the UK Government are required to restore parity as a result of the amendments made to the Northern Ireland Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, Treasury could seek to recoup the cost of doing so from the Executive's DEL budget. The Committee Chair referred to that. The estimated liability for Northern Ireland is £100 million per annum. As I said, it is important that I put on the record that that risk is there.

I refer Members to the concordant between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities; the memorandum of understanding between the UK and devolved Administrations; sections 28 and 87 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998; the Social Security (Northern Ireland Reciprocal Arrangements) Regulations 2016; and paragraph 26(e) of the Belfast Agreement, which sets out the risk that we have with repercussive costs. I mentioned how the Treasury, through the welfare reform debacle, had also applied that reduction to the block grant. Not everybody will be familiar with that, but it is important that, when we consider those amendments, we have our eyes wide open. Experienced legislators in the House and on the Committee will be familiar with that very real legal and financial risk. The amendments could increase the cost of the Bill by over 1,000 times. It is important that we take that into consideration in the debate. The amendments fundamentally change the very fabric of financial accountability and responsible, transparent public policymaking and government.

I do not want us, as an Assembly, to be placed in a position where we are being accused of not supporting those who have experienced loss through miscarriage, when nothing could be further from the truth. That is why I believe that my amendment will allow all Members to vote for the Bill, safe in the knowledge that they will have secured parental bereavement leave and pay for bereaved working parents by next spring, April 2022, which is only four months away, and that they will have also secured a firm commitment in legislation to a public consultation on how we can support those who experience miscarriage.

I am proud to be here today to support bereaved parents and to bring the Bill to the Assembly. I am also proud that my Executive colleagues have supported the introduction of the Bill. However, I cannot support what, I am afraid, looks like a reckless disregard for the Executive's finances, given the hundreds of millions of pounds in repercussive costs that would arise as a result of the tabled amendments.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

Apologies to the Minister, but I want to clarify something, if I may, on the question of repercussive effects. On the specific advice that his Department sought, he said, if I understood him correctly, that the Department for the Economy spoke to Finance, which then spoke to the Treasury. The note that we got quoted the statement of funding policy, which relates to devolved Administrations. That was not, I presume, a bespoke piece of advice that came from HM Treasury about that policy. Was a specific piece of advice sought from either Finance or the Treasury on the potential repercussive effects of that policy or a reference to the general statement of funding policy?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I refer the Member to the letter that I sent to the Economy Committee. That details how the Department of Finance engaged with HM Treasury. That was the response that it came back with. The Member is now aware, as are other Members, of the implications of the proposals, which we were told about as a result of direct communication with the Department of Finance and the Treasury.

I want to touch a little bit on the Committee scrutiny of and deliberations on the Bill. Departmental officials met the Committee on four occasions, sometimes at very short notice. I myself wrote to the Committee on a number of occasions. I sought to reach agreement with the Committee. I also met parties in the House. I therefore take exception to Stewart Dickson's comments that my Department did not work with the Committee. I do not think that that is fair. I will stand up for my officials and recognise the amount of work, time and effort that they put in. They were very keen to work with the Department. I committed the Department to undertaking a full consultation on miscarriage leave and pay, and I strengthened that with an undertaking, through the amendment, to copper-fasten the commitment to a consultation by including it in the Bill — in other words, giving it legal effect. That is now subject to the law. No stronger commitment or statement of intent could have been given.

The Committee was also provided with clarification on approximately 100 separate queries. That clarity was comprehensive, detailed and, although time-consuming to provide, provided without delay. The responses were detailed. No query went unanswered. Officials, under my express instruction, were at the Committee's disposal throughout its deliberations. Therefore, you can imagine my dismay at hearing that the Committee, after it had completed its examination of the Bill, after it had issued its report and after it had written its miscarriage amendment, chose to seek further detail and clarity from my Department on repercussive costs. Yes, the Committee sought this information after the report had been published and after its amendments had been tabled.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

In actual fact, we sought it prior to our clause-by-clause consideration. We then sought some further clarity because we had not got the exact detail that we were looking for. I put that on the record.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I have the emails in front of me that state that that is not the case and that the information was requested afterwards. I am more than happy to share those with the Member afterwards.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

It is important to get the reading of this on the record. The response that we got from the Economy Department is clear that DOF engaged with Treasury on the direct annual cost to the Executive of the amendments; in a sense, you would not expect the Treasury to say anything else about the cost. That is separate from the knock-on, repercussive effects of the UK-wide policy of maintaining parity. My reading of the response that we have is that there was specific advice on the cost of the amendments in NI and, then, a more general statement relating to the statement of funding policy. I do not think that there was specific guidance, unless I am wrong, from HM Treasury about a potential repercussive effect of this policy. It was a general reference to the statement of funding policy.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

What I have in front of me says that DOF engaged with HM Treasury on the financial impact of the Committee's amendments. My reading of that is that not only was it about the additional cost that we have as a result of breaking parity and having to fund the Northern Ireland contribution, but that that engagement led to HM Treasury supplying that statement from its funding policy. I hope that that is useful to the Member.

We should seriously consider the opportunity that my amendment gives for proper and due consideration of miscarriage through a detailed consultation on the matter: a blank canvas with nothing ruled out. Is there a mistaken belief that the Committee's amendment can be voted on and then tidied up at Further Consideration Stage? Thinking that it can be tidied up at Further Consideration Stage brings the risk of the Executive losing over £100 million a year. If that were to come to pass, we all know the impacts that it could have. As a Minister who is going through budget discussions, I know the impact that it could have.

I go back to the point that I made: the Committee amendments could push parental bereavement leave and pay and miscarriage leave and pay back to 2024. Even if the Bill could progress now without amendments, Royal Assent could barely be obtained in time. Whilst it would be tight, my officials would work flat out to get the parental bereavement secondary legislation in place for April 2022. There will, of course, be preparations for an Assembly election in the midst of this. There will be a new Executive with their own set of priorities. As I have said before, it would be impossible to consult on and introduce miscarriage legislation within 12 months of Royal Assent. How could I burden my Department with an impossible deadline, when failure to achieve that deadline would put the Department at the mercy of being in breach of the law? Who could do such a thing? What Minister could accept a deadline in the full knowledge that it will place their Department and officials in breach of the law? That is just not appropriate.

I think that I have explained to Members why this simply will not work, the impossible situation that I would be placed in and the decisions that I would have to make on pulling the Bill if we have unworkable amendments that put us at risk in that way.

That would mean that, as an Assembly and as a Committee, we would fail to support bereaved working parents and those who have suffered a miscarriage by failing to get the legislation in place and to secure a public consultation on miscarriage.

I know that Committees are working flat out to ensure that they play their part and every outstanding Bill is progressed with the minimum of delay, but there is a real risk in that. I hope that that is not the case. I hope that the Bill will not be rendered unworkable because of a well-intentioned but ill-considered amendment. Every Minister who has held office will be able to recall an example of when they have been forced to resist such an amendment; indeed, I can cite many examples from Ministers from the parties that the Committee members represent. Those Ministers challenged Committees that tabled unattainable amendments, highlighting the fact that they should not be doing the same thing as is happening now. Here is one quote:

"I am concerned that they were never subjected to the full rigours of public consultation, Executive consideration or ... Committee scrutiny. I do not, therefore, believe that the threshold for proper consultation and participation on those amendments has been met." — [Official Report (Hansard), Bound Volume 88, p320, col 1].

That was Mark H Durkan of the SDLP. Here is another quote:

"The role of consultation on significant issues was fundamental to the establishment of devolution here ... Last-minute amendments on substantial issues with direct effects on people, even on small numbers of people, are not the way to do good government and not the way that we should operate in this place." — [Official Report (Hansard), Bound Volume 83, p98, col 2].

That was David Ford of the Alliance Party, who went on to add that it is entirely inappropriate that that should be tacked on to a Bill without consultation — the kind of consultation that I had to do on every other aspect of this Bill, which is completely ignored by the last-minute amendment.

What does it matter if a consultation has not been held on miscarriage leave and pay? What matters is that it holds us to account. That is what prevents Ministers and their Departments from simply ruling by diktat or legislating on a whim. It robs the public, our constituents and stakeholders from across society of the opportunity to have their say on matters that govern their day-to-day lives.

No matter how well-deserving an issue is — make no mistake that miscarriage is a well-deserving issue — we owe it to everyone to make sure that we are custodians of public finances, guardians of law and servants of the people. We cannot just say that consultation is not important. Everybody should have an opportunity to influence, inform, debate and otherwise play a part or secure a stake. Following that path and normalising the creation of significant and groundbreaking new laws without recourse to public consultation further disconnects us from the people who elect us.

The issue of miscarriage deserves our support. I do not deny that; in fact, I champion it. It is the very worthiness of the issue, however, that perfectly illustrates the risk of supporting the Committee's amendments without proper consideration and consultation and without regard to the financial calamity that repercussive costs could reap for the Assembly. The amendments would undermine the fundamental building blocks of good legislation and governance that we are invested in upholding. Supporting Committee amendments without due consideration and consultation could eventually expose us all to a legislative Wild West, to special interest-driven policymaking on the hoof, to unaccountable and unfinanced laws in which society does not get its say —

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

— and to a situation in which we say, "Costs? Let someone else deal with them". I will briefly give way to the Member.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Thank you very much, Minister. I hear what you say. Of course we want to make appropriate legislation, but I clearly laid out to you why what you have put forward in amendment No 4 cannot work. There is no legislation — there is nothing — that measures how many people have miscarriages. The wording in amendment No 4 is difficult for someone who has had a miscarriage to read. It is not a consultation; it is a report. Minister, unless you are valid about this, that does not respond to what you have put forward.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I have referred to the Member's intervention on this before, and we are on a different page. The consultation gives people a voice. It gives people the opportunity to have their say. It is a very open consultation, and that is an appropriate move for me to make.

When we say, "Costs? What costs? Let somebody else deal with them", please remember that we potentially put that burden on all the public services that we are trying to support at this time, be that the health service, the education service or other public bodies. The Bill was intended to be small and focused on one thing. Not moving it further is not something that I would do lightly. It would be a decision reached with a heavy heart, but we are where we find ourselves, and that is unfortunate. Again, I say to the House that my amendment allows us to achieve what is right for bereaved parents and to work out what is right for those who suffer miscarriage.

An opportunity remains for us to show that we can work together to achieve what is best for our citizens and that we can be responsible, facing the difficult choices and making the right decisions. I ask the Chamber not to give its backing to the Committee amendments but to support my amendment.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. I appreciate the points made by Ms Armstrong, who probably has more expertise than others in the language around this, and that the communication has been disjointed. In amendment No 4, the wording is that consultation "may include", so it is permissive. That means that none of the points in the amendment are essential elements of the consultation. They could change, and other stuff could be added. I would like to think that, before any views were sought through consultation, there would be appropriate work with those who have great expertise to make sure that the language was right and did not breach any sensitivities. The wording is not "shall" but "may".

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I agree with the Member. That is an important intervention, and I thank him for it. I urge Members to reflect on that.

An opportunity remains for us all to show that we can work together and make responsible choices, so I ask the Chamber not to give its backing to the Committee amendments but to support my amendment. I ask the Chamber to pause and allow my amendment to deliver parental bereavement leave and pay now, to allow for miscarriage to be properly consulted on and to ensure that we do not burden the next Executive with hundreds of millions in repercussive costs that could rob us of nurses, teachers and valuable public services.

I ask the Committee this: what engagement did you have with DOF on the matter? Where is the policy that underpins the Committee amendments and any resulting legislation? Where is the work that needs to be done to make sure that that is the right policy? I do not think that the policy preparation exists. I do not think that it has happened. Only the vaguest assumptions can be made about the impact of the amendments.

So many unanswered questions surround the inclusion of a miscarriage provision alongside parental bereavement. I do not need to go into the details of the scenarios that people can find themselves in, but it is a complex issue, and we need to make sure that it is properly considered, including how the outworkings of it would be felt. What scenarios have been considered? Those questions cannot be answered, but they are the difficult, complex, thoughtful deliberations that would normally be worked through as part of a policy development and public consultation process.

I do not want to overlook all who might need support or to run the risk of creating an unjustifiable equivalence between some sets of parents and others. That is unfair on them, and it is unfair on the Assembly. The amendments constrain proper Assembly scrutiny. Where are the accompanying evidence packs, policy proposals and impact assessments that will allow Members to scrutinise and that will inform our debate on the amendments? Where are the hundreds of points of clarification provided to the Committee? Where are the financial impact assessments, the equality impact assessments and the explanatory and financial memorandum? They do not exist. Members are being asked to reach a decision without having been given so much as a page of policy detail to underpin the argument for the amendments. That is why in the debate we had Mr O'Toole asking me about potential amendments that we can take through at the next stage because we have not properly considered what we may put through at this stage.

I fully accept that there are instances in which the fast-tracking of legislation is required. The pandemic over the past couple of years has taught us that. It allowed the furlough scheme to be set up, and it allowed us to amend the way in which maternity and other family-related statutory payments were calculated. Miscarriage support has undoubtedly become a hot topic for family-related employment law, but that does not mean that we should not afford ourselves the time for a full consultation. The Assembly needs the time and the opportunity to properly consider and debate the matter. The public, working parents, miscarriage charities, employers and trade unions need the time and opportunity to have their say through a public consultation. I have to say —.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I am coming to an end, but I will give way.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Minister, I thank you for saying and recognising that people need time. I have been involved with miscarriage for 27 years. How much longer do we have to wait?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

That is one of the reasons that I tabled my amendments. Parents who have lost a child have had to wait far too long as well. That provision is ready to progress, and I want it to progress so that they can have leave and pay. I want to deal with the issue in the appropriate way.

I have been extremely disappointed by how the debate has progressed. I have been sincere and genuine in reaching out to colleagues across the House. I have sought to work with them to highlight the concerns that I have, and I believe that I have made the arguments for why my amendments, if accepted, would be a better route for us to go down. When I have challenged other Members, they have not been able to give reasons why they continue to try to push through the other amendments. Not only has there been a reluctance from Members in the first instance to give the issue the proper consideration and scrutiny that it deserves, but, even when the real risk of the Bill falling apart has been presented to them, there has not been the further interrogation or desire to see the issue sorted out. I find that really disappointing, and I urge Members to support my amendments.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

I thank all Members for their contributions to this afternoon's debate on what is a really important issue. A number of Members have rightly pointed out the horrendous nature of the grief that parents suffer on the death of a child. At Second Stage, Members spoke of their experiences, including me when I spoke of my family's experience of losing a child. As Mr Dickson said, those experiences are at the forefront of our mind in our discussion this afternoon.

At the outset of the debate, I said that the Committee had taken a strong interest in the Bill from the get-go. We support its aims and very much want to see parental bereavement leave and pay put into law. We welcomed the Bill's introduction, and we have considered it fully and listened to the evidence. Contrary to how the Minister has characterised them, we have tabled what we consider to be well-thought-out amendments.

I listened to the contributions of Members from across the Chamber this afternoon. I thank Kellie Armstrong for again speaking of her experiences in generous terms. Both she and Órlaithí outlined the real impact of bereavement and pregnancy loss on someone's mental health as well as on their physical well-being and their workplace experience. That is something that we have been very much mindful of in our consideration of the Bill.

I want to pick up on a couple of points that Members made beyond that, including Gerry Carroll's point about the Coalition for Bereaved Workers, from which we received evidence.

It is not within the scope of the Bill, but we included its asks, which were to extend provisions to all bereaved people, in our Committee report. Hopefully, the Department will take that on board in the time ahead.

Regarding the substantive issues that we have covered this afternoon, I listened carefully to the Minister's contribution and his comment that the amendments would be likely to delay things. Frankly, I agree with Mr Dickson and Mr O'Toole that we need to approach this in a problem-solving way. I understand that the Committee's amendments have been written in such a way that they stand alone and allow for the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, as introduced, and the regulations in respect of it to be brought forward while the work continues.

[Interruption.]

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance 5:00 pm, 30th November 2021

Apologies, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. I was just agreeing with the Member.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

The Minister has had significant time to give his views. I would like to respond.

The work can now be done on miscarriage leave and pay and to allow time to ensure that the consultation to which he referred can be done. I take on board what the Minister says about the time frame for that. I also listened to Ms Armstrong about being able to do things a bit more quickly. Perhaps that can be looked at, or, again, as I said in my opening remarks, we could look at the 12-month period that we have put in our amendment at Further Consideration Stage. The Committee would be willing to look at that on receiving evidence from the Minister.

I do not accept what the Minister said on the risk of repercussive costs being substantial. No precedents have come forward. I take on board what he says about welfare reform, but that was a very specific set of circumstances. We have not seen any legal advice to confirm what the Minister said about repercussive costs.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I am staggered by what the Member has said. Anyone who knows anything about repercussive costs knows that, if the Assembly were to proceed down this unique route in the United Kingdom, inevitably, there could and would be repercussive costs. Frankly, to swipe that away and say, "I do not accept it" is not good enough, particularly from the Chair of a Committee.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. Is she as concerned as I was yesterday and today that, despite these serious and traumatic experiences, there is an overwhelming focus on finance and cost and not enough focus, except from herself and some other Members, on people who are still in work, lacking support, and the impact on them and their families of not progressing legislation such as this? Are she and the Committee concerned about that direction of travel being pursued by the Minister?

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

What was considered by the Committee was the fact that we are considering people's lives. Obviously, we have to live within budgets, but we want to provide compassionate support to workers at really difficult times.

Regarding Mr Allister's comments, we asked for examples and precedents, but we were not given any. We were not offered any legal advice on what was being suggested either. I can only deal with what is presented to me.

We have an opportunity, before the end of this mandate, to enshrine in legislation progressive and meaningful provision for workers and their families: the right to statutory paid leave on the death of a child or a pregnancy loss; to ensure that there is compassionate support for workers; and for workers to know that they are valued, that they do not have to worry about taking unpaid leave, sick leave or annual leave in those terribly difficult circumstances and that they have statutory protection. It is an opportunity that the Assembly should grasp, and I urge all Members across the Chamber to support the Committee's amendments in group 1.

Question put, That amendment No 1 be made.

Some Members:

Aye.

Some Members:

No.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Clear the Lobbies. Before I put the Question again, I remind Members that, if it is possible, it would be preferable if we could avoid a Division.

Question, That amendment No 1 be made, put a second time.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Before the Assembly divides, I remind Members that, as per Standing Order 112, the Assembly has proxy voting arrangements in place. Members who have authorised another Member to vote on their behalf are not entitled to vote in person and should not enter the Lobbies.

I remind all Members of the requirement for social distancing while the Division takes place. I ask Members to ensure that they retain a 2-metre gap between themselves and other people when moving around the Chamber or the Rotunda and, particularly, in the Lobbies. Please be patient at all times, observe the signage and follow the instructions of the Lobby Clerks.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 51; Noes 27

AYES

Dr Aiken, Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Butler, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Mr Muir, Ms A Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Swann

Tellers for the Ayes: Ms Brogan, Ms Kimmins

NOES

Mr Allister, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr K Buchanan, Mr Weir

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I ask Members to take their ease for a few moments for a change at the top Table.

Members, if you will indulge me, rather than delaying further, I will try to keep business moving.

Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 (Parental bereavement pay)

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP 5:30 pm, 30th November 2021

We now come to the second group of amendments for debate. There is only one amendment, amendment No 2, which deals with week-1 rights. I call the Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy, Dr Caoimhe Archibald, to move and speak to amendment No 2.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

I beg to move amendment No 2:

In page 4, line 12, leave out paragraph (b).

Amendment No 2 is the single Committee amendment in group 2. This was the only amendment on which the Committee divided, with a majority supporting the amendment. Again, I put on record my thanks to the Bill Clerks and Committee team for their help and support.

Amendment No 2 seeks to remove the 26-week qualifying period for pay and to introduce a day-1 right for all employees and workers. The issue of a day-1 right was raised consistently by representative bodies across key sectors, including trade unions, human rights groups and bereavement charities. This is a view held not only by those representing employees but by business representatives. One Committee member expressed quite poignantly that it could not be right for two employees who work side by side and are both affected by parental bereavement to have differing rights based on their length of service. The Committee was particularly mindful of the impact of any qualifying period on zero-hours contract workers, agency workers and those on temporary contracts.

The Committee engaged extensively with the Department on the issue. The Department estimated that a maximum of 40 parents would be affected by the 26-week qualifying period and that the cost of day-1 rights would be above what was commensurate with the number of additional persons whom the change would benefit. Those figures are, of course, predicated on the Bill as introduced: that is, not including workers who experience miscarriage. The Committee was clear that it would not be deterred from pursuing additional rights for employees and workers by any barriers, pressure of time or the prospect of increased costs. It therefore tabled this amendment for consideration by the House.

I have addressed the issues that the Department raised regarding the cost of breaking parity with Britain. I restate that the Department has not cited a precedent for devolved Administrations becoming liable to fund breaks with parity in Britain.

The Committee recommended that the Department undertake work to scope and bring forward proposals to allow leave to be taken in single days, rather than, as specified in the Bill, two weeks having to be taken together or in separate blocks of one week. Some stakeholders were of the view that leave should be flexible, including options to take single days, to acknowledge that grief does not follow a specific pattern. The Committee trusts that the Department will give that issue due consideration and, in due course, evaluate it.

I want to make a few brief comments as Sinn Féin economy spokesperson. I do not have a great deal to add to what has been said, other than that I am strongly of the view that the statutory protection and right to paid leave should not be subject to an arbitrary qualification period. That serves no purpose. Anyone who suffers a bereavement or pregnancy loss should, regardless of how long they have been in a job, be entitled to the same level of support.

Neither the Department nor the Minister has offered any demonstrable evidence for their assertions on the risk of breaking parity. This amendment is simply the decent thing to do. I urge Members across the Chamber to take a stand for workers and ensure that the right to paid leave in really awful circumstances is enshrined in law from the point at which someone starts their job.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I will keep my remarks brief. There is considerable crossover, particularly on the financial aspects, with what was previously said. I am very concerned about the amendment.

I do not question the motivation behind the Committee's amendment. Again, there are good intentions in it, but, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The issue is not simply that the amendment would break parity but that the proposed change would have repercussive implications.

As the Chair said, the indications are that the direct cost for the number of employees who would be directly impacted on in any given year is relatively small. It is less about that, however, and more about the implications that the amendment would have for wider employment law.

There is a logical deduction that the Chair has already mentioned. It is this: why should two employees who are sitting side by side, one who had been there for a matter of days and one who has been there for a number of years, be treated in any way differently? If that is true of, for example, parental bereavement, why is it not true of every other aspect of employment law? Where is the logic in drawing any distinction? If we were to change that, what would the cost implications be across the board? Where would that leave us with any legal vulnerability, if somebody in a different set of circumstances were to challenge the law on that basis? Even if the miscarriage provisions are not put in place, the direct implications of the changes will lead to some additional set-up costs of £1·5 million. It will also probably lead to a small ongoing cost each year. If the repercussions were to happen with employment law across the board, however, it could run into millions upon millions of pounds. Let us be clear about what we are potentially doing by breaking parity today.

Again, the argument will be whether that will mean a level of benefit for a group of workers. Yes, it will. In my experience, if government and legislation were a choice between doing good things and bad things, or between funding good projects and defunding bad projects, it would be very easy. What is stamped through government, however, like a mantra on a stick of rock, is that, generally speaking, we choose between different things that benefit different sets of people and different things that are virtuous to different groups of people. We often choose between good things and good things.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McGlone] in the Chair)

The repercussive costs of this particular change in employment law would undoubtedly lead to a considerable financial cost to the Executive down the line. Given whatever resources the Executive have, and they are not infinite, it would not simply be a matter of adding costs on to things and that being the end of it. If we are to spend an additional £5 million, £10 million, £20 million or £25 million — whatever the figure happens to be — it will be money that has come from other sources. There will be an economic opportunity cost, meaning that you cannot do other virtuous things.

I would be a lot more comfortable with the amendment if the argument that was being made were that, for that opportunity cost, changing employment law and having the implications felt across other aspects of employment law — for example, with industrial tribunals — would lead to an additional cost of £10 million, which would be, if you like, sacrificed elsewhere. There is a certain level of collective dishonesty in simply saying that we will have no cost and that there will be no implications elsewhere. We are not even at that point, however, because we do not have a clue what the level of the cost would be.

It comes back to the point that was made earlier about our simply accepting legislation and changes that will have economic consequences, meaning that we are effectively writing a blank cheque without knowing what the costs will be. On previous occasions, Members have been very critical about particular government schemes that have totalled much greater costs than were initially anticipated, but that is precisely what we are doing today. At least today, we are writing that blank cheque with our eyes open. That is the fundamental problem that lies at the heart of the amendment. There is no other way in which this can be massaged: breaking parity on the issue will lead to direct costs for Northern Ireland.

During the debate on the previous group of amendments, the Chair said, correctly, that we have freedom of opportunity in what we do with employment law, but that also means that we have to pay for any choices that we make from our Budget, leaving aside whether it creates any implications down the line in terms of a broad parity issue of money being drawn back in. Again, that leads to a scenario in which we are racking up additional costs, not simply on this one aspect, and are setting the legal opportunity for others to challenge matters relating to day-1 rights on a range of other issues across the board. If that is being justified on the grounds that this measure will cost a certain amount and that we are willing to sacrifice other areas to afford it, I can understand that argument. However, if we pass this today, we are simply signing a blank cheque. I and my party will oppose the amendment.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

As we have heard, there is just one amendment in group 2, so I will endeavour to be brief. As I said at the beginning of my remarks on the previous group, I was not on the Economy Committee when it began scrutinising the Bill and considering potential amendments to it, but I commend my predecessor, Sinead McLaughlin, the Bill staff and colleagues from other parties for the work that they have done. I and my party support the removal of the qualifying period for bereavement pay and the introduction of it as a day-1 right.

It is worth going back to some of the points that were made by the Member who spoke previously, because his comments echoed a lot of the arguments that were made on the group 1 amendments around creating provision in the Bill for miscarriage. The argument is a general one that we are, perhaps, setting an unhelpful precedent and also that there are repercussive effects for which we are writing a blank cheque. I am afraid that it is important to say that, although we have had, as I said during the debate on the previous group of amendments, a written communication from the Treasury, via the Finance Department, to say that the direct costs of these provisions would be borne by the Northern Ireland Executive, there was no clarity from either the Treasury or the Department of Finance on repercussive costs. It is important to make that point. I am not dismissing the idea of repercussive costs.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Will the he accept the logic of accepting this amendment? For example, in the area of employment rights at an industrial tribunal, there will be a qualifying period before somebody can take a case, as, indeed, will be the case with a range of other employment laws. Are we saying that it is justified that, on day 1, anyone has to be treated on exactly the same basis as those who reach a qualifying period? There is no logical distinction between, for example, in this case, leave for parental bereavement and any other case. Once that has been accepted, it is very difficult to make an argument that there should be any division. It is a perfectly reasonable argument to say that there should not be any division, but it becomes intellectually dishonest when one says that this applies in this case when, actually, a distinction has to be drawn in other cases.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Member is making a point about the intellectual and logical inconsistency of having this as a day-1 right in this legislation but not having certain other employment rights as day-1 rights. Before I come on to whether there is an intellectual or logical inconsistency, that is not the same thing as there being a legal inconsistency. He is a trained lawyer; I am not. Is he suggesting that our passing this amendment now would have a legally repercussive effect on employment tribunals? I am not sure that it would. It does not seem to me to be a credible argument to say that, at employment tribunals, people could say, "I was dismissed during my probation period, but the Assembly has just passed a law in which certain rights around parental bereavement exist from day 1". If that is what he is arguing, it does not seem to me to be plausible, with respect.

He made other points about intellectual and logical inconsistency. With respect, I see the point he makes, but I do not completely accept it, the reason being that, as we have established today, issues of parental bereavement, baby loss, and miscarriage are a very particular area that is extremely sensitive; it is not just sensitive but devastating for those affected. I do not think, intellectually or ethically, it is that strange to make the point that, as the Committee Chair said, there is an ethical argument for saying that, in the case of someone who loses a child on week 1 or day 1 of a new job, the Assembly should say that they are entitled to treatment equal to that of a colleague who has been there for longer. To me, it is possible to make that argument while also saying, should the matter ever come up, that there are certain other employment rights which are subject to a probation period or which do not necessarily have to be applied on day 1 or week 1. Therefore, I do not accept that point, because there is a clear, obvious and ethical distinction, as we have unpacked and discovered today. However, I thank the Member for his intervention.

I will not delay the House too long, other than to say that there was a division in Committee on this. The argument is made that there is a particular ethical burden on making these rights instantaneous or not having a qualifying period. One of the arguments made by the Department on the qualifying period was that a relatively small number of parents would be impacted by it: 40. To use a logical argument, the corollary of that is that not many parents will create that additional cost. Therefore, the argument around exorbitant or runaway cost applies in this case, or I do not think it is fully made.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will give way in a second, once I have finished this point. I go back to the point that was made about repercussive costs, and to the point I made that, if there were particular, other technical clarifications or additions that the Department seeks to make, there is of course Further Consideration Stage, and that is open to the Department.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I appreciate the Member's giving way. The point that my officials will have been making before the Committee is that this is a very small number of people, so the costs themselves are small. However, it is not just those costs that we have to worry about. It is the costs of setting up the new system, which would be in or around the region of £1·5 million. We estimate that, for those individuals who would be affected by this, you are talking in and around £10,000 per year. However, the cost of bringing that in would be £1·5 million. That does not mean that we should not provide support to those people, which is why I wrote to the Minister for Communities to confirm that the discretionary support fund would be a vehicle through which those who were in need of financial support could get it. She confirmed to me that that is the case.

Hopefully, the Member can see what the Department was trying to do. Instead of bringing in a new system at a cost of £1·5 million, breaking parity and having to set up our own system at a cost that would pay out something relatively small, we already have another support mechanism in place. That is the point that my departmental officials will have been making.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

OK. I acknowledge the point that the Minister makes.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

The cost of £1·5 million for setting up the system for the day-1 right is the same as the £1·5 million cost for setting it up for miscarriage. It is either/or or both. It is the same cost. In relation to the discretionary support, obviously, other eligibility criteria apply to discretionary support, so it would be available only, for example, to people on lower incomes, and they would have to demonstrate that they were in financial stress to be able to access that support. I am not sure that discretionary support is the most appropriate vehicle.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome that intervention and thank the Committee Chair for it. She has made her points.

This group of amendments — it is one amendment — adds to the important, progressive, ethical step forward that this legislation will hopefully represent. It may involve more work at Further Consideration Stage, if people feel that they want to bring further amendments. Today is an important moment to address, as we did in the previous debate, the question of applying that to people who have suffered miscarriage or baby loss and to set down the principle that the rights on broader parental bereavement should apply on day 1 or week 1 of employment. I and my party support the amendment.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

I, too, will be brief. I support the amendment and emphasise the Chair's comments. I see from the minutes of our Committee meeting that members commented on the importance of that being a week-1 right and that no one should face into the difficulties of bereavement, be it through miscarriage, stillbirth or early parental bereavement, knowing that, when it comes to financial considerations, a differentiation will be made between them and other employees with longer service. Earlier in the debate, my colleague Kellie Armstrong indicated that finance is not the key or driving issue for someone in those circumstances.

I want to address briefly Mr Weir's point on the different rates, if you like, of qualifying for various rights under employment law. In Northern Ireland, many years ago, the qualifying period for the right to claim unfair dismissal was 26 weeks. It then moved to two years, before moving back to one year. In Northern Ireland, we are out of step with the UK. In fact, we in Northern Ireland provide better rights than the rest of the United Kingdom does when it comes to redundancy. Redundancy is based on age and length of service. There is, therefore, a whole raft of reasons why people qualify under employment law. I would like to see a great deal more harmonisation in all that, and the House should rise to that ambition. In this case, we have the opportunity today to bring forward new legislation that delivers for people a week-1 right, and that is the right and proper thing for us to do.

Photo of Liz Kimmins Liz Kimmins Sinn Féin

I thank the Committee for tabling the amendment. The strength of feeling on the issue is evident around the Chamber. As others said, the loss of a child is a hugely traumatic experience for any parent. The massive impact that it has on someone who has suffered such a sad loss does not bear thinking about. Regardless of at what stage it happened, it has the same impact. I thank Kellie Armstrong for being so frank in her personal account of the loss that she has suffered on many occasions.

As my colleagues stated, we are fully supportive of the implementation of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill. We believe that all parents should be supported and get compassionate leave from their employment to give them the necessary time to grieve, regardless of for how long they have been in that employment. We fully support the Committee's amendment to make bereavement leave a day-1 right. We believe that it is wrong to try to make that leave available to workers only after they have served 26 weeks. It is essential that it is acknowledged that many workers in the North, particularly those on zero-hour contracts, may experience breaks in employment and irregular periods of service, through no fault of their own, and that implementing a qualification period would further marginalise and exclude so many of those types of workers. It is also important to acknowledge that women make up the highest proportion of workers in that type of work for a range of reasons, including having to take employment breaks for the care of other children. That would mean that many women would be excluded from an entitlement to bereavement leave.

None of us can plan or prepare for bereavement and grief. The purpose of the Bill is to provide a compassionate legal framework. We must therefore do that comprehensively to ensure that no one is excluded during what is likely to be one of the most difficult times of their life. The added worry of financial insecurity following the loss of a child is something that no parent should have to contend with. I know that Ms Armstrong said that that does not even enter your mind, but we, as a devolved institution, should do all that we can to shape the legislation to ensure that no one has to worry about that and that further stress is not created at a later stage.

In closing, a lot of the points that I wanted to make have been covered, but I think we have a real opportunity here to ensure that we are supporting all bereaved parents, regardless of their length of service and regardless of when they lost their child, because the gravity of that loss remains the same. Therefore, I think that it is imperative that we do this properly so that no one is excluded.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

Again, I put on record my sense of disappointment that we have not been able to get to an agreed position in the Assembly on the issues. I agree with other Members that they are issues that affect people we know, and they deserve to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. We need to be aware that we are dealing with issues that are very raw and that hurt people not just for a period of time; the pain and the loss that people feel can still be very acute even after many years. I am aware of the sensitivities around the issue. It is my responsibility, as Minister, to take all those issues into consideration.

I do not intend to detain the House for much longer because I think that we have rehearsed many of the arguments already. However, it is incumbent on me to place on record the concerns that I have about the legal and financial risks and liabilities that we are potentially leaving ourselves open to as we depart from a long-standing and accepted practice for employment-related statutory payments. We also need to recognise that there is a relationship between employees and employers and that the needs of both need to be taken into consideration. Where there are changes to employment law, it is important that they are signposted well ahead of time, because people will have to amend payroll systems and put in other changes.

I also place on record again the potential repercussive cost arising from this and the other Committee amendment. That was articulated at great length in the previous debate, and I am not going to go into it again. The amendment that will contribute substantially towards the £100 million loss that we risk bequeathing to the next Executive. Again, it is important that the issues are open to public consultation and full debate, and we have to recognise the way in which the proposals open us up, I suppose, to further unintended consequences in relation to the impact on other statutory payments such as maternity pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay and adoption pay. The amendment has a wider impact than the Bill alone. The payments have all been carefully calibrated over a number of years to sit within an agreed and readily understood employment law framework. I think that, when we change qualifying periods, it should be done in a coordinated and strategic manner and looked at across the full range of employment rights and not just a singular, small part.

It is also important to be aware that, in addition to all the issues and concerns that I just discussed, there is also the Committee's public consultation into the matter, which showed that a majority of respondents — 54% — broadly agreed with maintaining the 26-week qualifying period. Furthermore, if we add the 9% of respondents who had no view on the removal or not of the qualifying period, 63% were either in agreement or not opposed. Public consultation is important, but, in this case, it has been demonstrated that the issue does not have overwhelming support or an overwhelming call from consultees.

It is for all those reasons and the reasons that I articulated in the previous debate that I will be opposing the Committee amendment. I urge the House to do the same, but I understand that that is unlikely at this stage.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Glaoim ar Chathaoirleach an Choiste Eacnamaíochta le críoch a chur leis an díospóireacht. I call on Dr Caoimhe Archibald, the Chairperson of the Committee for the Committee, to wind on the amendment.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

Once again, I welcome Members' contributions to this group of amendments, and I thank them for those contributions. The contributions reflect the previous debate.

I appreciate the Minister's remarks. I will pick up on, in particular, the last point about the consultation responses and the call for the 26-week qualification period to be removed, which was contained in our more detailed written responses. There were also quite strong views on that in the oral evidence received by the Committee.

I will pick up on some of the broad themes and on the nature of the debate. Any Bill that comes into the House can come out of it in a very different form. It is for Departments to respond to the will of the House in the legislation that is brought forward. In the previous debate, the Minister made comments about the Committee having engaged with the Department of Finance or about it consulting on particular elements of the policy. Once the Bill is passed, if it gets to that stage, it will be for the Department to conduct that work.

When Committees scrutinise Bills, Departments provide responses to queries. I have already put on record my thanks to departmental officials for their very constructive engagement with the Committee and for coming to talk to us on a number of occasions. Indeed, I am sure that we will see more of the officials, because we will be dealing with another three private Members' Bills on employment law in the short time ahead. Through this Bill and those other private Members' Bills on employment law, we are making really good, progressive moves to support workers, which is to be welcomed.

As I said in my earlier remarks today, when considering the Bill, the Committee looked into it in great detail. Committee members gave the Bill thoughtful consideration. We believe that the amendments that we brought forward are very considered and pragmatic and that they provide for some flexibility and modification, if necessary and following consultation, at a later date. We need to take that into account.

I ask Members to support amendment No 2.

Question put, That amendment No 2 be made.

Some Members:

Aye.

Some Members:

No.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Clear the Lobbies. The Question will be put again in three minutes. I remind Members that we should continue to uphold social distancing and that Members who have proxy voting arrangements in place should not come to the Chamber. Thank you.

Before I put the Question again, I remind Members that, if possible, it would be preferable to avoid a Division.

Question, That amendment No 2 be made, put a second time.

Some Members:

Aye.

Some Members:

No.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Before the Assembly divides, I remind Members that, as per Standing Order 112, the Assembly has proxy voting arrangements in place. Members who have authorised another Member to vote on their behalf are not entitled to vote in person and should not enter the Lobbies.

At this time of increased transmission in the community, I also remind Members of the requirement for social distancing while the Division takes place. I ask Members to ensure that they retain at least a 2-metre gap between them and other people when moving around the Chamber or the Rotunda and, especially, in the Lobbies. Please be patient at all times, observe the signage and follow the instructions of the Lobby Clerks.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 52; Noes 27

AYES

Dr Aiken, Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Butler, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Mr Muir, Ms A Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Swann, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Ms Brogan, Mr Dickson

NOES

Mr Allister, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr K Buchanan, Mr Weir

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment No 3 proposed:

In clause 2, page 10, line 17, at end insert –

<BR/>

&quot;Application in relation to miscarriage


167ZZ19. The Department must by regulations provide that this Part and regulations under it apply in relation to a person who has experienced a miscarriage as they apply in relation to a bereaved parent as set out in section 167ZZ9 (Entitlement) with such modifications, if any, as specified in regulations.&quot; — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

Question put, That amendment No 3 be made.

Some Members:

Aye.

Some Members:

No.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I have been advised by the party Whips that, in accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), we can dispense with the three minutes and move straight to the Division.

I remind all Members of the requirement for social distancing while Divisions take place. Please ensure that you maintain at least a 2-metre gap between yourself and other people when moving around the Chamber or the Rotunda. Clear the Lobbies.

Question, That amendment No 3 be made, put a second time.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 52; Noes 27

AYES

Dr Aiken, Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Butler, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Mr Muir, Ms A Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Swann, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Dr Archibald, Ms Brogan

NOES

Mr Allister, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr K Buchanan, Mr Weir

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 4 proposed:

After clause 3 insert

<BR/>

&quot;Consultation on leave and pay in cases of miscarriage


3A.—(1) The Department for the Economy must consult such persons as it considers appropriate as to whether the entitlements created by this Act to—


(a) leave; and


(b) pay; which are conferred where a child has died should also be conferred where a person has had a miscarriage.


(2) The consultation may include, in particular, consultation as to—


(a) whether the entitlements should be conferred in all cases where a person has had a miscarriage, or only in some cases;


(b) whether the entitlements to be conferred in such cases should be the same as, or different from, the entitlements that are conferred where a child has died;


(c) whether anyone other than the person who has had the miscarriage should also to be entitled to leave or pay;


(d) whether different entitlements should be conferred in different cases of miscarriage.


(3) The Department must prepare a report on the consultation and—


(a) lay the report before the Assembly, and


(b) publish it in such manner as the Department considers appropriate.


(4) The Department must lay and publish the report under subsection (3) before the end of the period of 2 years beginning with the date on which the first regulations made under the provisions inserted by sections 1 and 2 come into operation.&quot; — [Mr Lyons (The Minister for the Economy).]

Question put, That amendment No 4 be made.

Some Members:

Aye.

Some Members:

No.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I have been advised, again, by the party Whips that, in accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), there is agreement that we can dispense with the three minutes and move straight to the Division.

I remind Members of the requirement for social distancing while the Division takes place. Please ensure that you maintain at least a 2-metre gap — people should know that by now — between yourself and other people while moving around the Chamber and especially in the Lobbies. Clear the Lobbies.

Question, That amendment No 4 be made, put a second time.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 27; Noes 49

AYES

Mr Allister, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr K Buchanan, Mr Weir

NOES

Dr Aiken, Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Butler, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Mr McNulty, Mr Muir, Ms A Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Swann, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Noes: Dr Archibald, Ms Brogan

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 4 (Commencement)

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Amendment No 5 is a paving amendment to amendment No 6.

Amendment No 5 made:

In page 10, line 24, after &quot;appoint&quot; insert –

<BR/>

&quot;, but this is subject to subsection (2A)&quot;. — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

Amendment No 6 made:

In page 10, line 27, at end insert –



&quot;(2A) Regulations under Chapter 4 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and regulations under Part 12ZD of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 (including regulations under Article 112EF and regulations under section 167ZZ19) must come into operation within 12 months of Royal Assent.&quot; — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will not call amendment No 7 as it is consequential to amendment No 4, which was not made.

Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule (Further amendments to do with parental bereavement leave and pay)

Amendment No 8 made:

In page 13, line 16, at end insert –

<BR/>

&quot;8A. Regulations made under section 167ZZ19 must not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.&quot; — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

Amendment No 9 made:

In page 15, line 2, at end insert –



&quot;24A. In Article 251(5A) (regulations that are subject to approval by the Assembly), after &#x0027;107AB(4),&#x0027; insert &#x0027;112EF&#x0027;.&quot; — [Dr Archibald (The Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy).]

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will not call amendment No 10 as it is consequential to amendment No 4, which has not been made.

Long title agreed to.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

That concludes the Consideration Stage of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill. The Bill stands referred to the Speaker. Thank you for your perseverance and patience.

(Mr Speaker in the Chair)