Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Regulation
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has confirmed that Statutory Parental Bereavement Leave will be introduced on 6 April 2020. MPs have said it will make the UK the only country to have such a law for grieving parents.
Currently, a mother whose child is still-born after 24 weeks of pregnancy is entitled to take the full period of maternity leave and the father to paternity leave. In situations where a child has been placed with a couple for the purposes of adoption the main adopter would be continue with their period adoption leave for 8 weeks after the date the child died and the remaining partner is entitled to take paternity leave. Once those entitlements have expired an employee who suffers a bereavement of a child can only rely on the existing statutory right to take a ‘reasonable’ period of time off to deal with an emergency, such as a bereavement involving a dependent, or an employer’s policy in this area, if they have one or discretion if they don’t have one.
Technically time off to care for dependants only provides emergency unpaid leave and is specifically to take action necessary as a consequence of the death of a dependant. The type of action contemplated when consulting on the new legislation was arranging the funeral and registering the death. Employees needing a longer period of time to cope with the emotional reaction to a death resort to taking a combination of sick leave, holiday and unpaid leave.
Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Regulation
The rights will apply to all employees from day-one of employment.
Under the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Regulations, primary carers – not just parents – will be entitled to time off work following the death of a child. This includes adopters, foster parents and guardians, as well as more informal groups such close relatives or family friends who have taken responsibility for the child’s care, for a minimum of 4 weeks, in the absence of parents (known as kinship carers).
The entitlement is to two weeks’ leave following the loss of a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The minimum amount of leave is one week, if choosing to take two weeks the employee can either take it as two consecutive week or in two separate blocks of one week. The leave must be taken within a 56 week window from the date of the child’s death, to allow time for moments such as anniversaries.
Notice requirements are flexible so leave can be taken without prior notice.
- During the first 56 days after the childs death the employee only has to notify you verbally before their contracted shift start time. This means in practice where an employee is due to start work at 9am so long as they contact you by 8.59am they could take one weeks leave starting with that day. If the employee was actually at work and told you they wanted to take leave and went home the weeks leave would start with the following day. The initial verbal notification should be confirmed in writing within 28 days of the date the absence commenced.
- From the 57 day after the childs death the employee should give you one weeks notice, in writing, that they wish to take time off work as parental bereavememt leave.
Employers are prevented from requesting a copy of the death certificate.
Employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service must be paid no less than 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings, or £151.20 per week (which is the statutory weekly rate in force from 5 April 2020), whichever is lesser. Employees who have not accrued 26 weeks service will be entitled to leave but there will be no entitlement to pay.
Introduce a Bereavement Leave Policy
Having a written bereavement policy in place provides certainty and security at a difficult time.
Introducing a statutory framework for Bereavement Leave will avoid the potential for inconsistency, which as a minimum could affect staff morale and in more serious cases, lead to discrimination claims. There is also a separate issue relating to the different religious approaches to bereavement. Whilst employers could use their discretion when dealing with an employee of a certain religion to avoid discrimination, having a clear statutory framework as a starting point may help to avoid issues in this area.
Clearly some employees will want to get back to work quickly after a bereavement, to avoid isolation at home and assist with carrying on with their lives, whilst others will not feel able to cope for some time. There is also the issue of who the leave should cover – should you just be entitled to take leave on the death of a child? Statistically, many more people of working age will lose a parent, so allowing paid time off when a parent dies is likely to have a bigger impact on businesses. This is obviously a complex and highly sensitive area and it will be difficult for the government to legislate appropriately for all individual circumstances.
The legislation relating to the issue and content of contracts of employment is changing on 6 April 2020. My article Section 1 Statements explains the changes. Parental Bereavement Rights will fall under the category of paid leave.
Bereavement Leave Compliance Pack
What You Will Receive with this Fixed Price HR Package
|Response: within 1 working day||Cost: £65|
The Bereavement Leave Compliance Package For Employers guides you clearly and concisely through the minefield of managing an employee who has suffered the loss of a child or another family member.