The new Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 sets out that parents who suffer the death of a child under the age of 18 or a still birth from 24 weeks of pregnancy will be entitled to two weeks paid leave. It is expected that these new rights will be incorporated into the Employment Rights Act 1996 in 2020.
At present, most employees have the statutory right to a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off under the Employment Rights Act, this is to allow them to deal with unforeseen matters or emergencies that involve a dependant.
The death of a child can have a severe impact on a parents’ physical and emotional wellbeing. Therefore, it is crucial that employers manage this difficult time carefully and see that the employee successfully returns to work in the future.
In 2016, a survey conducted by the charity, Child Bereavement UK disclosed that less than one third of British adults who were employed at the time of their loss said they felt supported by their employer. This figure highlights the need for improvement in this area.
This Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 initially started off as a Private Members Bill, however, it has always been supported by the Government; who expressed: “This law makes parental bereavement leave a legal right for the first time in the UKs history. Losing a child is an unimaginable trauma. I am delighted we have reached this important milestone which so many people have campaigned for.”
The act sets out that:
• A bereaved parent will be entitled to take at least 2 weeks’ leave which must be taken in the first 56 days following the child’s death. This leave should be taken in blocks of 1 week and can be continuous or discontinuous;
• Leave can be taken in respect of each child if there is more than one child involved;
• The definition of a qualifying parent may be framed (in whole or part) by reference to the employee’s care of the child before he/she died (regulations will provide more detail on the definition);
• The rules about rights during that leave (and other family leave) also apply during bereavement leave, including the right to the same terms and conditions (other than in respect of pay) and (broadly) the right to return to the same role;
• The process that should be followed i.e. the requirement to give notice and provide evidence, will be set out within the regulations;
• The rates of pay will also be determined by the regulations, but in order to receive pay (rather than be able to take leave), a parent must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and received pay above the lower earnings limit for the last 8 weeks.
• Employers should have well written bereavement policies in the workplace, this will equip employees with certainty and security during difficult times;
• Details regarding death should be kept private under data protection laws. Employers should consider asking the employee how much information they wish to pass on to their colleagues;
• It is important that employers are aware of the risk of racial or religious discrimination claims that may come as a result of refusing an employee time off for religious observances on death. This is because certain religions require a set time to mourn – For example, Muslims have certain set mourning periods, depending on the relation of the deceased relative.
How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?
If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.