The UK will be the first country in the world to offer paid parental bereavement as a right, and the government estimates that this new entitlement will help to support around 10,000 parents a year.
The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations 2020 will be known as Jack’s Law, in memory of Jack Herd, whose mother, Lucy campaigned tirelessly for its introduction following Jack’s death as a child.
The right to parental bereavement leave
The new parental bereavement leave legislation will provide a statutory right to a minimum of two weeks’ leave for all employed parents if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, on or after 06 April 2020.
The right to parental bereavement leave will apply irrespective of how long employees have been with you, as parental bereavement leave entitlement will be a ‘day-one’ employment right.
Employees who meet the eligibility criteria will be able to take parental bereavement leave either as a single block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week at different times within the first 56 weeks after the death or stillbirth of a child. This allows those affected to match their parental bereavement leave to the times they need it most, which could be in the early days or over the first anniversary.
Under Jack’s Law, the employee is entitled to return to the job that they had before the period of absence as they can with other types of parental leave. They should not be disadvantaged for having taken parental bereavement leave. If you dismiss them because they took parental bereavement leave, this would automatically be classed as unfair dismissal.
The right to pay when taking parental bereavement leave
Parents with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and weekly average earnings over the lower earnings limit will also be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay.
Statutory parental bereavement pay will either be paid at the statutory rate or at 90% of the individual’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
As an employer, you need to administer statutory parental bereavement leave pay in the same way as existing family-related statutory payments, such as statutory paternity pay.
How will the introduction of Jack’s Law affect employers?
Until the introduction of Jack’s Law, employers adopted a broad spectrum of approaches, and the amount of time off and whether it was paid would be at management’s discretion.
Although you may already have provisions for parental bereavement leave, there has been no legal entitlement to allow employees to take any time off following the death of a child until now, except under the provisions relating to unpaid dependant care leave.
The introduction of parental bereavement and pay regulations now sets a minimum benchmark for all employers to meet.
Employers should update their parental bereavement policies before 06 April 2020 to ensure that they allow for at least the minimum amount of leave and pay. They should publicise any changes made to those who manage staff.