What is Parental Bereavement Leave?

So, we introduced you yesterday to Parental Bereavement Leave and in this post I will go into more detail and answer some of the most common questions.

From 6 April 2020 a new law, known as “Jack’s Law”, was introduced which gives parents the right to take 2 weeks’ bereavement leave following the death of a child.  Jack’s Law was introduced in memory of Jack Herd, who tragically drowned in 2010, aged 23 months. It is the result of a campaign led by his mother, Lucy, to give bereaved parents a guaranteed right to a period of leave following the death of their child. 

  • Who is eligible to take Parental Bereavement Leave?

Employed parents who lose a child aged under 18, including through a stillbirth after 24 weeks, are entitled to take up to 2 weeks’ PBL.   The right to take PBL is only available to employees, not to other workers, self-employed contractors or agency workers.  It is a Day 1 right, meaning employees do not need to have a specified period of service with their employer to be eligible to take PBL (although there is a length of service requirement in relation to pay, see below).

The definition of a parent is extensive and there are many ways you may have become a parent so for the purpose of Parental Bereavement Leave here are the guidelines on who is eligible.

  • a child’s natural or adoptive parent, including employees who have become parents following surrogacy or other forms of IVF treatment;
  • the natural parent of a child that has been adopted, where there is a court order authorising the child to have contact with the natural parent;
  • an individual with whom the child has been placed for adoption by a British adoption agency, or under a fostering for adoption scheme, provided the placement has not been terminated;
  • in circumstances where a child has entered Great Britain from overseas for the purposes of adoption, a person living with that child and who intends to adopt them and has received official notification from the British authorities that they are eligible to adopt;
  • an intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement where it was expected that the court would make a parental order under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008;
  • a “parent in fact”, being someone in whose home the child was living and who had day-to-day responsibility for the child’s care for at least the 4 weeks prior to death, provided that the child’s parent or someone with parental responsibility was not also living in the home; and
  • the partner of any of the above, being a person living in an enduring family relationship with another person and their child, and who is not that person’s parent (including adoptive parents), grandparent, sibling (including a half-sibling), aunt or uncle (including half-aunts and uncles). The purpose of this category is to include stepparents.
  • How much time can parent take as parental bereavement leave?

The leave can be taken as a single 2-week block or as separate 1-week blocks and can be taken any time up to 56 weeks after the date of the child’s death or stillbirth. Occasional days cannot be taken as PBL.  The reason for the 56-week period is to allow parents to take their second week of leave over the first anniversary of the death if they wish.  In circumstances where more than one child has died, or been stillborn after 24 weeks, a parent can take a separate period of leave for each child.

In order to take PBL, an employee needs to notify their employer of:

  • the date of their child’s death or stillbirth;
  • the date on which they intend their PBL to start; and
  • whether they intend to take 1 or 2 weeks’ leave 2 weeks can either be separate or together.

A week is the same number of days that you normally work in a week. e.g. if you normally work Monday and Tuesday then a week off is 2 days i.e. Monday and Tuesday.

  • How much notice does an employee have to give?

This is a difficult time for your employee so any employer would hopefully be as sympathetic as possible in the circumstances. If an employer is notified as soon as possible it will hopefully allow the company to support the employee as best they can and mean they do not have to worry about work.

Notice requirements for taking leave as specified by the Government require the employee to state how many weeks they will be taking. If an employee will be taking one week at the time of the child’s death or up to 56 days afterwards, they can take this leave on the day at short notice. If they choose to take the second week after 56 days of the child’s death, they are required to give one week’s notice in order to take this and /or change the dates.

  • Who is eligible to be paid SPBP (statutory parental bereavement pay)?

Unlike the right to take PBL, the statutory right for a bereaved parent (as defined above) to be paid during this time is not a Day 1 employment right.   Instead, the employee must have:

  • been in the employer’s employment for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks, ending with the week prior to the week in which the child died or was stillborn;
  • and received weekly earnings in the 8 weeks before the relevant week that was above the lower earnings limit in force at the end of the relevant week. For the 2020/2021 tax year, the lower earnings limit is £120 per week.
  • How much will an eligible employee receive?

The rate of SPBP is the same as statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave. This is the lower of either 90% of the employee’s basic salary or the prescribed rate (which for the 2020/2021 tax year is £151.20 per week).

  • What happens if your employee is already off on leave e.g., maternity or paternity leave?

If you’re taking another type of statutory leave (for example, maternity leave or paternity leave) when the child dies or stillbirth happens, your Parental Bereavement Leave must start after the other leave has ended but does not have to be taken immediately after. This includes if the statutory leave is for another child.

If your Parental Bereavement Leave is interrupted by the start of another type of statutory leave, you can take your remaining entitlement to Parental Bereavement Leave after that other leave has ended.

Your remaining Parental Bereavement Leave must still be taken within 56 weeks of the date of death or stillbirth.

  • What happens to employee rights whilst on PBL?

You are entitled to your normal terms and conditions of employment throughout your bereavement leave and you will continue to remain bound by any obligations arising under your contract of employment.

  • What happens if my employee feels unable to return to work after PBL?

The Company may offer other forms of leave such as Compassionate leave, annual leave or unpaid leave. This is at the discretion of the company and the options should be discussed with the employee before the end of the PBL. Practically and with a view to fully supporting your employee you should also discuss any adjustments that may be required when your employee does return to work.

  • Can I point my employee towards support for bereaved parents?

These organisations will be able to help your employee grieve the loss of your child and support them through the mourning process. The key is to keep lines of communication open but to take your guidance from the employee on how often they want to talk and in what way e.g. call/visit/text.  Any information will, understandably, be treated in the strictest confidence.