Father calls for 10 days’ paid compassionate leave for families of dead soldiers

The families of soldiers killed in action should be given the legal right to paid compassionate leave for up to 10 days, insists a man whose son was killed in Iraq.

Bill Stewardson, an NHS hospital porter, was initially given one day’s leave to attend the funeral of his son Alex Green, who died in Basra in 2007, although this was later changed to six days.

Stewardson, who works at the Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, said he believed 10 days paid leave with management discretion for extensions where necessary would be more appropriate for families whose relatives are killed.

He told BBC News: “You’ve got awkward time-scales, you’ve got repatriations, you’ve got delays with people coming back. You’ve got a lot on at the time.

“Why are we having this conversation in 21st century England where you’ve got to go to court, got to go to parliament and put laws in place so that employers, like the NHS, cannot treat people so inhumanely?”

A spokesman for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust told the BBC: “When Mr Stewardson’s son was tragically killed in Iraq, one of our managers did initially advise him that his leave entitlement was one day’s compassionate leave.

“This advice was correct because Mr Stewardson worked on an ‘ad hoc’ basis called ‘bank staff’.

“However, as soon as the HR director was made aware of Mr Stewardson’s circumstances he immediately granted a total of six days’ paid compassionate leave, which is the same entitlement a full-time employee would receive.

“Both the manager and the trust have apologised to Mr Stewardson and we have ensured that should a similar situation arise in the future, managers understand how to respond to each individual case in the most appropriate manner.”

The government said there was no legal right to compassionate leave, but it expected employers to act sensitively. However, dozens of MPs have signed an Early Day Motion urging the government to legislate.

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