Employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, will have a new statutory right to two weeks parental bereavement leave and in some cases a right to statutory parental bereavement leave pay.
The new rights will apply to parents who lose a child on or after 6th April 2020.
Whilst many employers are sympathetic to bereaved employees, currently whether an employee is entitled to time off after losing a child and whether this will be paid will come down to their contract of employment, custom and practice in the organisation or whether the time off they wish to take meets the requirements for statutory unpaid dependent care leave.
It’s important for employers to be aware of the forthcoming changes to ensure compliance, particularly as they may mark a change to current practice in some organisations. The new rights to leave and pay are minimums, employers can provide enhanced rights to pay and leave if they wish.
How will the new statutory right to leave work?
The new right to parental bereavement leave will be available to parents from the first day of their employment. As you would expect the definition of parents includes birth parents and adoptive parents but also other relationships as well, such as ‘live-in’ partners of parents and ‘parents in fact’ ( where someone cares for a child in their own home in the absence of a parent and who has had day to day responsibility for the care of the child for at least four weeks and in most cases doesn’t receive pay for this).
Qualifying parents can take up to two weeks parental bereavement leave each. It can be taken as either a single block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week. To ensure bereaved parents will be able to take the leave at the times they feel they need it most, they will have the right to take it at any time within 56 weeks of the death of the child.
If an employee wishes to take parental bereavement leave, they will need to give their employer notice of this and tell them when their child died, when they want their leave to begin and whether that period of absence is to be for one or two weeks. Employers can’t request a copy of the child’s death certificate.
How much notice employees are required to give will depend on when they wish to start their parental bereavement leave. If it’s after 56 days of the child’s death, notice is one week, if it’s earlier than that, notice is intended to be flexible to allow parents to take parental bereavement leave at short notice. In this timeframe, notice should be given before the employee is due to start work on the first day of the week they wish to take as parental bereavement leave or as soon as is reasonably practicable if this is not possible.
Employees will be protected from being dismissed or being subject to any other detrimental treatment because of parental bereavement leave.
What about statutory parental bereavement leave pay?
Parents with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and weekly average earnings over the lower earnings limit will be entitled to statutory parental bereavement leave pay when they take statutory parental bereavement leave. This will be £151.90 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is lower.
Whilst hopefully none of your employees will need to use the new right, it’s important for managers to be aware of the forthcoming changes. Not only can this help your organisation to comply with the law, but an awareness of the new rights will help managers to support bereaved parents at a very difficult time.
Whilst the new rights will go some way to assist parents who lose a child, it’s important for employers to be aware that everyone deals with grief differently and that some employees may feel they need a longer period of time away from work or they may become unwell as a result of their loss. Such situations should be managed sensitively and appropriately, and it is important to seek advice on the facts of your case.
If you have any employment law matters with which you require assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.