Bereavement Leave: 14th July 2014

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab)
10. What the Government’s policy is on bereavement leave for parents and spouses of armed forces personnel killed during service. [904809]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Anna Soubry)
The Government are employers in two respects. Anyone in the civil service who finds themselves in this horrible position can apply for up to five days of paid leave, which can be extended depending on the circumstances. Members of the armed forces who lose a loved one in service are entitled to up to four weeks of paid compassionate leave.
Paul Blomfield
I thank the Minister for her reply. My constituent Bill Stewardson lost his son Alex who served with the Duke of Lancaster’s regiment in Basra in 2007. On his next working day, Bill was told by his manager:

“You can have one day’s carer’s leave for the funeral— and we don’t have to give you that.”

Since then Bill has campaigned tirelessly for statutory bereavement leave for the parents of members of the armed forces lost on active service. Does the Minister agree that that is the least we can do and will she work with colleagues to bring forward such proposals?

Anna Soubry
I am aware of the case that the hon. Gentleman raises, and I congratulate him and his constituent on their campaign. This is actually a matter between employers and employees, and it is also a policy direction under Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, but that does not preclude me, or other Ministers, from having a view. I would not be in favour of putting such a proposal in statute; it would be far too complicated and difficult—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) is chuntering as ever, but he obviously has not given the matter much thought. I imagine that there will be many others who will also want to have that sort of bereavement leave. Statute is not the way to do this. The way to do it is for employers to do the right thing by all of those who face such circumstances, just as we must do in Government.