Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay
The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 2018 is expected to come into force in 2020.
Once in force, it will give all employed bereaved parents a day-one statutory right to (a minimum of) two weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a still birth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Provided that they meet eligibility criteria (e.g. 26 weeks’ continuous service), parents will be able to claim statutory parental bereavement pay for this period.
At present, there is no statutory right for parents to take leave (or pay) in these circumstances.
Many employers, sensitive to such a devastating tragedy, in practice do offer grieving parents extra time off and/or support, sometimes without deducting pay.
However, standard bereavement or compassionate leave policies often provide for only three days of permitted leave. Grieving parents may feel compelled to go back to work too early, or to take annual or unpaid leave in order to process their grief and arrange and attend their baby’s funeral.
What will the changes mean?
The Government plans for the legal changes to take effect from next year.
Many of the details are not yet clear, although the Government’s Response to its consultation on the Act, sets out its current intentions.
The Act, for example, does not define “bereaved parent”. This therefore won’t be known for sure until further regulations – containing this and other details – are published. However, the Act already contemplates a wider definition than legal parents, with the potential for primary carers such as grandparents, guardians or siblings to be included (in line with the Government’s stated intentions).
The parental bereavement leave will have to be taken within 56 days of the child’s death (in either one block, or two periods of one week). It will be in addition to any other parental leave to which the parent is entitled.
The Act provides that the employee must give his or her employer notice. Again, details as to when such notice must be given are left to the regulations. However, the Government has indicated that it intends to take a two-tiered approach regarding notice. No notice will be required for leave taken very soon after the date of the child’s death; but employees taking leave after this period will need to give their employers at least one week’s notice.
The Government plans to mirror the evidence requirements used in other family leave and pay rights –recognising that (in terms of leave at least) no written declaration would be required in the initial period after the child’s death.
This legislation is another example of the government’s ongoing desire to make the workplace more family-friendly and flexible. Introducing longer leave (and potentially pay) in these (hopefully rare) circumstances, will force employers to be more engaged and aware of their employee’s personal life and issues. Indirectly, legislation like this, encourages communication and trust, values that are becoming all the more important for employers in order to retain their staff and continue to grow their business and brand.
What should you do now?
Employers should keep an eye out for the detailed regulations and ensure that they have procedures in place to meet the minimum legislative requirements as from next year when they come into force.
In the meantime, they may wish to consider what, if any, support mechanisms are already in place for employees who suffer a bereavement.
Employees dealing with the loss of a child for whom they care will be devastated and at their most vulnerable. Any support you could provide will be invaluable. At a minimum, you should ensure compliance with your existing compassionate leave policies and ensure that grieving employees are dealt with as sensitively and kindly as possible.
This bulletin contains general overview information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.