In January 2020, the government confirmed that paid parental bereavement leave will be introduced for eligible employees on 6 April 2020. Here we look at the new entitlements, and discuss how employers can support staff going through a bereavement.
Quite amazingly, there has been no legal obligation for employers to provide paid time off for grieving parents. The Employment Rights Act 1996 affords employees the legal right to take 'reasonable' time off to deal with an emergency, which includes the death of a child. However, this entitlement is only to unpaid leave and does not necessarily allow for a longer time off to grieve. This will change when the new Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations come into force on 6 April 2020.
Who qualifies for Parental Bereavement Leave?
This entitlement will extend to employed parents and adults with parental responsibility who have suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18. This includes adopters, foster parents and guardians. It's also expected to apply to those classed as 'kinship carers', who may be close relatives or family friends that have assumed responsibility for looking after a child in the absence of parents. The entitlement will also apply to parents who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Parents and primary carers must have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks before the child's death to be eligible for paid parental bereavement leave. All employees have a 'day one' right to unpaid bereavement leave. Eligible employees who have received pay above the lower earnings limit (£118 per week for 2019-20) for the previous eight weeks, are entitled to at least two weeks' statutory paid leave.
When can you take Parental Bereavement Leave?
The leave can be taken either in one block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each. It must be taken within 56 weeks of the date of the child's death. This is to allow for time to be taken off for difficult events such as birthdays or anniversaries. In addition notice requirements for taking the leave will be flexible, so it can be taken at short notice. In the circumstances where an employee loses more than one child, they will be entitled to take a separate period of leave for each child.
Employers will not be entitled to request a copy of the child's death certificate as evidence of an employee's right to the entitlement and will have to be aware that different religions have their own bereavement traditions and funeral rites that must be followed. Refusing to allow an employee to observe their beliefs and customs could amount to religious discrimination.
There will be some practical considerations to be taken into account including how details, if any, will be shared to the employee's colleagues to ensure compliance with data protection requirements.
While this is something that an employer will hope their employees will never have to go through, ensuring that employees are treated with compassion, kindness and respect at an incredibly difficult time will be beneficial to all in the long-term. If you would like more information, please contact a member of our team.