This guidance will help you prepare for the Parental Bereavement (Leave & Pay) Act 2018, which will be effective from April 2020.
At present, a parent who loses a child can only rely on a statutory right to unpaid time off in an emergency (which would include the death of a child). However, there is no fixed amount of time which can be taken, and instead the leave must be ‘reasonable.’
Alternatively, an employee may be able to rely on an employer’s discretionary compassionate leave policy. Therefore, some employees will find themselves in an uncertain situation. They could have no entitlement to time off for any fixed length of time at an already difficult period.
However, from April 2020 new legislation will come into force. It will entitle all parents whose child dies under the age of 18, or whose baby is stillborn at 24 weeks or later, to a maximum two weeks of paid leave. This new Act recognises the terrible effect that the loss of a child can have. It will ensure that all primary caregivers in this situation are entitled to a minimum level of time off work to begin to come to terms with the emotional and practical impact of this situation.
Who will be eligible?
Statutory parental bereavement leave will be available to employees who are “bereaved parents” where they were the primary carers for a deceased child under the age of 18.
This will be a “day one” right, meaning that staff will not require a minimum period of service, although there will be a 26-week qualifying period for statutory parental bereavement pay.
In most cases, this will allow birth parents whose child has died to take leave, unless they were not the child’s primary carers (so the birth parents of children who have been adopted would not be entitled to leave).
Entitlement will be focused more on who has responsibility as the “primary carers” for the child and less on the legal status between the adult and the child.
As well as birth parents, the new entitlement will also be available to adults with parental responsibility for children in “non-traditional family structures”. This means that entitlement will cover adoptive parents, individuals who are fostering to adopt, legal guardians; and most foster parents (although short-term arrangements, such as emergency foster care, may not be covered).
How will leave be taken?
Parental bereavement leave will operate in units of one week. Bereaved parents will not be entitled to take the leave as individual days.
Bereaved parents will be able to take the leave as a single block of two weeks or two separate blocks of one week at different times.
What you need to do or consider now (or at least in time for next April)
1. Consider your policy view over this new right and whether to follow or exceed the expectations of this new legislation.
2. Start to refresh your policies and procedures to reflect the necessary actions that need to be taken at this unimaginable time.
3. Ensure your staff handbook and contract reflect your policy/procedure.
4. Review your contract of employment or outsource to a specialist in this area to ensure the clauses within are fit for purpose
The best way to deal with this emotive topic is to get things put into place now, and that’s what we do at Hill HR, we take the stress out of your working day. Whether its for guidance on employment contracts review and reissue or on handbook best practices. We can meet you needs and hopefully exceed them. If you have any queries or need help, please contact Hill HR.