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New leave allowance on the cards for bereaved parents

The government has proposed new laws to give parents the right to take up to two weeks bereavement leave to begin to recover from the death of a child.  Qualifying parents will also be able to claim parental bereavement pay.

Currently employees do not have a statutory right to take leave (paid or otherwise) if someone close to them dies.  However, many employers recognise that their staff do need time to recover from the immediate and, often debilitating, effects of grief, and provide support and allow time off. 

The government has recognised that not all employers support their staff and has indicated that it will support a private members bill – the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill – which will provide employees with the right to take up to two weeks’ bereavement leave to begin to recover from the death of a child.

However, this will be limited to parents trying to come to terms with the death of a child under 18 years’ old (rather than to other employees who have lost an older child or close relative).

Employees will have:
A day-one right to take parental bereavement leave;
The right to receive parental bereavement pay for employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks; 
 (Probably) protection against dismissal during the absence period and rights in respect of priority for redeployment on redundancy. 

Employees do not have to take leave immediately following the death of their child, although most will probably do so. Instead they have up to 8 weeks following the death to take leave and it has to be taken in whole weeks (but not necessarily consecutively).

The Bill does not state whether pay will be capped (like lower statutory maternity pay or statutory sick pay) or relate to the employee's actual earnings.  The government has, however, said that small employers will be able to recover all statutory parental bereavement pay while larger employers will be able to reclaim almost all of it.

The government believes that this scheme will be one of the most generous in the world.  It is certainly a worthwhile amendment and one that will offer parents time away from work to start to recover from, what must be, a devastating loss.  

The Bill's second reading took place on 20 October and it is anticipated that the change will become law in 2020.  However, it only provides the framework for bereavement leave, and pay and regulations will be required to flesh out the detail.

Published: 7 November 2017

Employment Law Update - October 2017

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Sybille Steiner