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Parental bereavement leave changes: What employers need to know

25 February 2020

Dealing with the loss of a child is an unthinkable tragedy, and the UK Government will lead the way in changes to paid parental bereavement leave from April 2020.

According to ACAS, 1 in 10 employees will be affected by the death of a loved one, and until now there has been no legal obligation for employers to offer paid leave for parents who have lost a child. The Employment Rights Act 1996, states that employees have the right to take ‘reasonable time’ off to deal with an emergency – but does not allow for further time off work to grieve.

However, this will change when the new Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations comes into force on the 6th April 2020.

Managing bereavement is not easy for employers. Treating your staff with compassion during this devastating time should be your first priority. Being able to advise on the support available will go a long way to easing concerns about work and pay.

Here is our guide to the new entitlements and our advice on how you can support bereaved parents.

  • Paid parental bereavement leave is for employees with parental responsibility to those who have suffered a loss of a child under the age of 18.
  • Parental responsibility can include parents of adopted or fostered children, guardians and relatives or family friends that have assumed responsibility caring for the child in the absence of parents.
  • The new legislation also applies to parents who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The employee must have been engaged for a continuous period of employment of at least 26 weeks before the child’s death to be eligible.
  • Employees of at least 26 weeks prior who have received pay above the lower earning limit for the previous eight weeks, are entitled to at least two weeks statutory paid leave or 90% of average weekly earnings, where this is lower.
  • Those workers who have not been employed for a continuous period of 26 weeks will be entitled to two weeks unpaid leave.
  • The two weeks leave can be taken as two continuous weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week within 56 weeks of the date of the child’s death. This allows for time off work for upsetting times such as birthdays.
  • The notice requirement for taking leave will be flexible.
  • If an employee suffers the loss of more than one child, they are entitled to take a separate period of leave for each child.
  • As an employer, you will not be entitled to request a copy of the child’s death certificate as evidence.

Things to consider as an employer

Different religions have their own way of dealing with bereavement, and their traditions and beliefs should be respected. By not adhering to this, you could face an allegation of religious discrimination.

Your worker has the right to keep the details of their child’s death confidential under the Data Protection Act 2018. You should ensure that the employees wishes are respected at all times.

A study of bereaved UK adults showed that 30% needed more than two weeks before returning to work. So, it goes without saying that you will want to offer flexibility during this time. You could also consider offering additional paid leave.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees who suffer loss may experience depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder – which is classed as a disability. Under these circumstances, you could look at offering medical advice and support, counselling and making reasonable adjustments to help aid recovery. 

The new law for Parental Bereavement Leave – known as ‘Jack’s Law’ is a first in UK history and also a world first.

Ex business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said at the time of the announcement, “There can be few worse experiences in life than the loss of a child and I am proud that this government is delivering ‘Jack’s Law’, making us the first country in the world to do so.”

This is an uncomfortable subject to cover, but one which employers should aware of. Supporting your workforce through such a tragedy, and having a robust leave policy in place, will help make your staff feel valued, ease some of the practical burdens and allow them the time needed to grieve.

Please call us on 0330 041 5255 or complete our online Contact Form for further guidance and support and discover how partnering with DatumRPO will benefit your organisation.

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