Parental Bereavement Leave is a right which we all hope will never, ever, apply to us and ours. The death of a child is surely one of the worst possible experiences, whether sudden or slow, or from accident, illness or violence. The obligation to attend work at such a time can be a great burden. New employment rights seek to address this and give employees some rights and employers some certainty. These new rights, in Regulations made under The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018, apply in respect of parental bereavements that happened on or after 6 April 2020.
The new law gives all employed parents a statutory right to two weeks’ off work on Parental Bereavement Leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Employees will be able to claim statutory parental bereavement pay for this period, currently £151.20 or 90% of average weekly pay (whichever is lower), if they meet the relevant eligibility criteria. The criteria include being employed for at least six months and in a close relationship with the child.
The new law is designed to apply in very difficult circumstances, and to make a statutory right of that which many employers already give. The regulations provide that the leave must be taken within 56 days of the child’s death. It is perhaps highly likely that the time would be taken immediately, to allow for the immediate period of grief and the funeral arrangements. The Act was introduced as a private member’s bill, but was supported by the government and meets a 2019 Conservative party manifesto commitment. It is compassionate law without much Treasury cost.
The new rights can be a bit knotty to apply as they will often have to be applied in conjunction with maternity leave or paternity leave. Please do take advice before acting, as it is obviously important to help the bereaved employee by giving them only information that is clear and correct about their rights and choices.
This may be regarded as a relatively minor piece of legislation and thankfully never relevant to most of us. However, in those very difficult cases where it is relevant, it will perhaps be of use in setting expectations for both the employer and employee. The rights given will of course be a minimum, and most employers will choose to take a very sympathetic approach in such difficult circumstances.
For more information or advice please contact any member of our Employment Team.