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Lord Knight of Weymouth: Lucy Herd's campaign to change how employers manage bereavement

Thursday 02 October 2014

In our blog series on workplace bereavement, Lord Knight of Weymouth, reflects on one woman's campaign on bereavement.


Lord Knight of Weymouth

The Rt Hon. the Lord Knight of Weymouth joined the House of Lords in 2010. Previously, he was MP for South Dorset.

Lord Knight

Parliamentarians spend a lot of time in the legislative trenches and playing political games, but just occasionally we work with campaigners and actually get things done.

Several years ago I appeared on BBC South's Politics Show. The show is made in their Southampton studio and the normal format is two or three local politicians, the presenter, and another guest with a particular story. This is when I met Lucy Herd for the first time.

Lucy's story was very moving.

She was at home in Cumbria working in the kitchen. It was a lovely late August day and her son, soon to celebrate his second birthday was playing around her. She noticed the back door open, and called for Jack. She found him at the top of the garden lying face down in the garden pond. Despite every effort Jack died that day.

Jack's father was working in the Middle East. Obviously it took a while to fly back to Cumbria, but he was not able to stay around for very long because he was needed back at work in less than a week.  

Lucy discovered that the only entitlement in their situation was three days leave. Twelve months for the birth and three days for the death of a child. In these dreadful circumstances any one of us would need time and too often this is not available to grieving parents. 

Sadly, Lucy's relationship with her partner has not survived this trauma. They are not unusual, around 90% of relationships do not survive the loss of a child.

As a result of that experience, Lucy started campaigning, supported by the Lullaby Trust, Bliss, Cruse, Child Bereavement UK, the Childhood Bereavement Network and others. She has been asking for everyone to get reasonable bereavement leave in these exceptional circumstances.

I got involved when the Children & Families Bill came through Parliament to extend parental leave following a birth. Working with others such as Tom Harris MP, we persuaded the Government to act on bereavement leave for parents.

I am therefore delighted that Acas has published pdf icon Managing bereavement in the workplace - a good practice guide [318kb]. They have worked with Lucy and other campaigners to put this together for employers, with the backing of Government. The guide was launched at an event I supported in Parliament on 17 September. 

I hope all employers adopt this excellent guide.  If so others facing the impossible difficulty of losing a child can at least expect a consistently sympathetic response from their bosses. Then Parliament will have done its job and Lucy can rest knowing that something positive has come from an awful few years.

Read other blogs in our bereavement series

Steve Williams: Managing bereavement in the workplace

Audrey Williams: How to support bereaved employees - working beyond the law

Bereavement information from Acas

Acas guidance on managing bereavement

pdf icon Managing bereavement in the workplace - a good practice guide [318kb]

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