Employers should be aware that paid parental bereavement leave will be introduced on 6 April 2020. Until recently, there has been no legal obligation on employers to provide paid time off for grieving parents.
Currently, employees have the legal right to take ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with emergencies, like the death of a child, but this entitlement is to unpaid leave only. The current situation, under the Employment Rights Act 1996, does not necessarily allow parents the time they need to grieve.
The new Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations will implement a statutory right to a minimum of two weeks’ leave for all employed parents if they suffer the loss of a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, regardless of how long they have worked for their employer.
So what do employers need to know about the new entitlements?
Firstly, who is entitled to paid parental bereavement leave?
It applies to:
- 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, foster parents and guardians
- Parents who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. In cases such as these, 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
Parents and primary carers must have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks before the child’s death to be eligible for paid parental bereavement leave. All employees have the right from ‘day one’ of their employment to unpaid bereavement leave.
Notice requirements for taking such leave will be flexible, which means that employees will be able to take it at short notice. The leave can be taken either in one block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each.
HR staff need to be aware of the new legislation and its impact. Beyond this, they should also be prepared to provide full, flexible support for bereaved employees at what will be a very distressing time. Showing compassion and care in such difficult circumstances will help staff feel value and supported.