Bereavement leave for parents who lose a child

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill has been published by the government. Although the Bill is a Private Members’ Bill, it has the full support of the government and therefore the Bill and its explanatory notes have been prepared by the government with the consent of the relevant MP. It is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 20 October 2017.

The Bill provides a right for employed parents to be absent from work for two weeks following the death of a child under the age of 18. All employed parents who meet the eligibility conditions will be entitled to this leave, regardless of how long they have worked for their employer.

The Bill also provides that those eligible parents who have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer by the end of the week before the week of the child’s death will be entitled to receive parental bereavement pay during their bereavement leave, to be paid at the statutory flat rate (currently £140.98 per week) or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. In line with other entitlements to statutory pay, the Bill enables employers to claim back parental bereavement pay from the government.

Finally, parents taking parental bereavement leave will have the same employment protections as those associated with other forms of family-related leave. This includes retaining their existing terms and conditions of employment during parental bereavement leave (except for pay) and protection from detriment or dismissal as a result of having taken leave.

Currently, there is no legal obligation on employers to allow parents paid time off work to grieve following the death of a child. Compassionate leave is entirely at the discretion of the employer. The only statutory right is to a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, including making arrangements following the death of a dependant. The introduction of a specific statutory entitlement to parental bereavement leave and pay will therefore set a minimum standard for employers and employees.

The Bill applies in England, Wales and Scotland and it is anticipated that its provisions will come into force in 2020.

Posted in Employment Law

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