March 13, 2020
From 6 April 2020, there will now be a legal obligation for employers to provide paid time off for grieving parents.
Ahead of the legislation’s introduction, we explain the new entitlements, and how your business can provide flexible support for bereaved staff.
Who is entitled to paid parental bereavement leave?
- Employed parents and adults with parental responsibility who have suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18
- Adults with ‘parental responsibility’ include adopters, step-parents, 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 new entitlement will also apply to parents who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. In this instance, female employees will still be entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and/or pay, as will a mother who loses a child after it is born
- The Act applies as a ‘day one’ right and there are no eligibility requirements, such as length of service, for employees to qualify for the right to take unpaid leave
- To be eligible for paid parental leave however, employed parents must have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks before the child’s death
What are employees entitled to?
- The Act gives a statutory right to a minimum of two weeks’ leave for all employed parents.
- The two weeks’ 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
- Employed parents who meet certain eligibility criteria will also be entitled to Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay. To qualify, parents must be employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks prior to when the child dies, and have received pay above the lower earnings limit for the previous eight weeks
- Notice requirements for taking the leave will be flexible, so it can be taken at short notice
- If an employee loses more than one child, they will be entitled to take a separate period of leave for each child
Other issues to be aware of
- Under the new legislation, 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
- Small employers will be able to recover all statutory parental bereavement pay, while larger organisations will be able to reclaim almost all of it.
- Employees who suffer such a loss may experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which could constitute a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
- Start reviewing your business’ policies and procedures and update any family friendly policies in your handbook
- Consider whether you wish to offer any additional paid leave and enhanced bereavement policy