Calgary MP pushing for extended bereavement leave for parents
Calgary Shepard Conservative MP Tom Kmiec, who suffered through the death of his newborn daughter is pushing to give parents more time off after the death of a child.
“I went through this. I noticed like I read all these very personal stories of people who have to return to work just a few days after the loss of their child and I felt like we need to do something” said Kmiec.
Kmiec lost his newborn daughter in August 2018, 39 days after she was born. Lucy-Rose died from a genetic disorder.
Kmiec has recently introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons to drastically expand bereavement leave from five days to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for parents who have experienced a stillbirth, death of a child under 18 or the death of a disabled child in their care.
The current system under the Canada Labour Code provides three days of paid leave and two days of unpaid leave for parents following the death of a child.
The proposed changes under Bill C-307 would apply to federally regulated employees, which would include workers such as chartered banks, railway workers, the airline industry and military.
“I’ve heard from people, like dads especially who are treated very differently and in the current set of rules were expected to go back to work almost right away and they were just completely grief-stricken," Kmiec said.
“I think most employers will recognize that a person who's grieving at work is not a productive employee, they're not able to contribute to the workplace.”
Kmiec said he took six weeks off following his daughter's death. He said the current system doesn’t give enough time to grieve and make arrangements.
“I think eight weeks of unpaid job protected leave is the minimum thing that we could do to ensure that they have the time that they need to care for their family and to take care of their child’s kind of final estate so to speak, making sure that they’re remembered and then they can get back to living and taking care of their other family members,” said Kmiec.
STUDY SHOWED GLARING FAILURE
In 2018, a motion brought forward by Conservative MP Blake Richards launched a study of the issue. According to Kmiec’s office, the study showed a glaring failure of government programming to address the needs of parents who experience the loss of a child.
Kmiec’s bill has gone through the first reading. It likely won’t get debated before the summer recess. He said if there is an election this fall he hopes the proposal will be part of a campaign platform, even its not his own party.
SPARKING A CONVERSATION
The founder of a charity that provides support to families impacted by infant loss, says the bill is sparking a conversation that needs to happen.
“I don’t think people understand the actual impacts of loss and I don’t think they understand he prevalence of loss,” said Aditi Loveridge, founder of The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Centre.
Loveridge said in North America, one in four pregnancies end in loss. She said stillbirth rates have increased during COVID-19.
“It starts to reduce the stigma and starts to give grieving parents permission to really start to understand for themselves that this is a highly impactful experience and they do deserve that time to start to work towards their healing.”
Loveridge said the opportunity to have eight weeks off work, even if it's not for employees everywhere, would be a step in the right direction.
“Time doesn’t heal. But what time does is allows you the space to build those coping tools and build a community around you."
PILSC connects families to community and peer support groups among other supports.
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