April 2020 sees the introduction of Parental Bereavement Leave, an entitlement for up to two weeks of leave for employed parents who suffer stillbirth or the loss of a child.
Key things you need to know about the introduction of Parental Bereavement Leave
- The right to leave applies to any employee, irrespective of length of service;
- It applies if an employee loses a child under the age of 18 or has a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy;
- Leave can be taken as a single block of two weeks or two separate blocks of one week each taken at different times during 56 weeks after the child’s death;
- The UK is the first country in the world to introduce a statutory right to bereavement leave;
- The right to paid leave will depend on the employee length of service, i.e. at least 26 weeks, and payment will be at the rate of £148.68 per week (current rate for 2019/20) or 90% of average weekly earnings if that’s lower.
What happens currently?
Research by XpertHR in 2018 suggests that the average paid bereavement leave entitlement is five days which means that many employers will have to update their policies to comply with the new law.
Supporting your employees
It’s extremely encouraging to see the introduction of parental bereavement leave in the UK. From experience though, I’d say that most of my clients have already been prepared to go “over and above” for their employees in these most difficult of circumstances. In fact, it’s often the case that time off is paid in full and therefore I think that many employers will need to think carefully about whether the parental bereavement leave should be in place of or as an enhancement to their current arrangements which of course aren’t covered by statute.
In some ways, it’s a shame that the need to legislate has arisen in the first place and that employers can’t all show the empathy and support that their employees need. Acas already have some useful guidance available which they’ll be updating to include the new statutory position.
I’m about to start writing a new parental bereavement leave policy that I’ll issue to my clients. As well as writing up all the practicalities mentioned above about leave and pay and rates etc, I know that I’ll be including some words of guidance as to what to do next once the employee does return to work:
- Every employee is different and deserves to be treated as such;
- Have a conversation with them to ask what they want;
- Some people will want to talk about their loss, others will simply not want it mentioned;
- Bereavement can be very challenging for people when they feel that their colleagues “ignore” or don’t refer to their loss. It’s much better to ask what the bereaved parent wants;
- Continue to support them – understand that they will have good days and bad days and that there will be days when they just don’t feel like showing up. A supportive employer can make the world of difference to someone when they feel like the rest of their world has been torn apart.
For advice and guidance or a new parental bereavement leave policy, please get in touch.