In September, approval was given by parliament for a new workplace right, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018. This is the first law of its kind in the UK and will support those affected by the tragedy of the death of a child. The act is expected to come into force in 2020.
Although the Government is committed to offering this leave, many of the details are still to be confirmed by regulations before the new rules take effect.
Entitlements for employees
One of the main entitlements of this act is to provide a minimum of two week’s leave to all employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18, including a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Leave must be taken within 56 days (8 weeks) of the death.
The right to take leave under the new act is a ‘day one’ right and applies regardless of the length of service.
Should a parent lose more than one child it is thought that the leave entitlement and pay will be in respect of each child.
Bereaved parents will be entitled to Parental Bereavement Pay if they meet the relevant eligibility criteria which is similar to those for the Statutory Paternity Pay.
Who will be entitled?
Regulations due to be published at a later date will clarify entitlement to bereavement leave and pay and will define a ‘bereaved parent’. The definition is likely to reference not only biological parents but will take into consideration the employee’s care of the child before the child’s death. The regulations are likely to include adoptive parents, step parents and those who have obtained parental orders.
The regulations will also clarify how leave and pay can be taken, for example in a single block of two weeks; two separate one week blocks; or more flexibly. They will also set out the notice that must be given, if any.
Special or compassionate leave
Although these regulations are yet to come into force, many employers already have policies and procedures in place to grant special or compassionate leave to bereaved parents. Granting compassionate leave on a discretionary basis is also an option for employers.
Employees also have a ‘day one’ right to ‘reasonable’ time off work to deal with emergencies involving dependants, which will include taking time to make arrangements following a death