Changes in employment law
6 April 2020 welcomes an assortment of changes in the realm of employment law, including a world first entitlement to two weeks’ paid bereavement leave for bereaved parents.
Many employers already have their own policies around bereavement, or would assess the situation sympathetically on a case-by-case basis. This new legislation, which the government predicts will support 10,000 parents annually, sets a new minimum entitlement.
Eligible employees will be able to take this leave within the 56 weeks following a child’s death, allowing employees to take leave at incredibly challenging times and when they need it most; immediately following the death and around its first anniversary.
Parental bereavement leave is an automatic entitlement; employees do not require a certain length of service before qualifying for this right.
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This leave applies where there has been:
- death of a child under the age of 18; or
- stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
To be eligible, an employee must be related to the child in any of the following ways:
- a parent;
- an adoptive parent;
- a person with whom the child has been placed for adoption;
- an adopter;
- an intended parent;
- a parent “in fact” (i.e. they have lived with the child for four continuous weeks ending with the child’s death); or
- the partner of the child’s parent (parent meaning any of those listed in 1 – 6).
How employees can take this type of leave
Grief affects everyone differently; this new legislation has been drafted in a way which reflects this. Employees can take their paid leave in any of the following ways:
- one week’s leave;
- one block of two weeks’ leave; or
- two blocks of one week’s leave.
When requesting parental bereavement leave, an employee should notify their employer of:
- the date of the child’s death;
- the date they intend their leave to begin; and
- how long their intended period of leave will be (e.g. two weeks).
If an employee’s request is made within 56 days following the date of the child’s death, they must give the notice to their employer either:
- before they are due to start work on their first day of absence; or
- if this is not possible, as soon as reasonably practical.
If a request is made after 56 days but within 56 weeks following the date of the child’s death, an employee must provide their employer with the notice at least one week prior to the commencement of their intended leave.
Parental bereavement leave pay
Employees taking this leave will be paid the lower of either:
- £151.20 (which will moderately increase each tax year, in line with the statutory maternity, paternity, adoption etc. leave pay band); or
- 90% of their salary.
To comply, employers should take the following steps:
- reviewing and updating staff handbooks. Such a review could include amending any Compassionate Leave Policy already available;
- notifying managers of this new statutory entitlement;
- consider this a trigger for training and professional development opportunities. Line managers could attend a refresher management course, so that they can update their skills and consider new or alternative ways to deal with sensitive staff issues, such as the death of a child or a stillbirth;
- be aware that, under the Data Protection Act 2018 (GDPR), employees have the right to keep details of their child’s death confidential. The law also does not allow employers to ask for a copy of the death certificate; and
- be aware that staff who take leave under these regulations may not be fit to return to work following their period of leave. In such cases, it may be appropriate for staff to take sick leave, annual leave or, at the employer’s discretion, further paid leave. Employees who experience a stillbirth may also be eligible for maternity or paternity leave under the existing rules.