A BILL that will provide parents with two weeks paid leave following the death of a child or stillbirth has been passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Provision for a miscarriage will follow at a later date following a public consultation.
The Bill was introduced by DUP MLA Diane Dodds when she was Minister for the Economy, who said she was delighted to Bill for Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay passed its final stage in the Assembly.
"The trauma of losing a child is impossible to overstate, and it is completely understandable that working parents who experience such a bereavement will need the compassion and support of a caring employer," she said.
'This Bill is a vital step towards ensuring that- on a statutory basis, employees who suffer the loss of a child under the age of eighteen, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, or a miscarriage will have two weeks’ leave be entitled to a statutory payment."
She said the Bill will bring Northern Ireland in line with similar measure in Great Britain and provide an important safety net for "working parents who suffer such a profound loss".
Current Economy Minister Gordon Lyons also welcomed that the Assembly was able to reach a consensus and ensure the legislation passed.
"Following the introduction of parental bereavement leave and pay in Great Britain, my predecessor Diane Dodds made it her priority to secure an extension of this critical support for parents in Northern Ireland," he said.
"I share that priority and am pleased I have been able to secure Assembly passage in this mandate. This new employment right will be introduced following Royal Assent and will align provision here with the rest of the United Kingdom.
"It will provide an important statutory safety net for working parents who suffer such a profound loss. No one should have to worry about losing their job or having to return to work while starting to grieve the loss of a child."
He also welcomed the introduction of a similar measure for those who experience a miscarriage in due course.
"It is important we recognise that the loss of a child in the womb is still a horrendous experience and we want to provide support where possible," Lyons said.
"Northern Ireland will now be the first jurisdiction in Europe, and one of only a handful across the world, to have legislated for miscarriage employment rights in such a comprehensive fashion.
"Following a full public consultation, my Department will draw up detailed miscarriage leave and pay regulations, with an introduction date following shortly after."