New Legislation on the Horizon

When a proposed bill is heard before parliment and receives royal assent it becomes legislation. On the 13th September 2019 The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill received this royal assent and became Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act 2018. In this blog, we will share with you what is known so far about this new piece of legislation. Whenever a new law comes into place, it offers you the opportunity to reflect on your current practices and bring them in line with the legislation but also to go further if appropriate, remember legislation is the minimum you must provide, you have the flexibility to do more!

The first thing to know is that although the act is now in place the new rights are expected to come into force in 2020 so you have time to plan and put anything in place you feel you need to. In summary, the act entitles employed parents who have lost a child to take statutory paid leave to allow them time to grieve.

The bill was presented based on the fact that it has been estimated that one in ten employees will be affected by bereavement at any one time, bereavement can be a long process and can trigger longer term mental health problems. There is an increased focus on how, as employers, we support our employees with their mental health and this is just one example of how we can put in place provision. Loosing a child is devastating and a 2016 survey commissioned by Child Bereavement UK revealed that less than a third of those working at the time felt supported by their employer, so there is clearly scope for improvement. Currently there is no legal requirement to provide paid leave for grieving parents. Employees have the standard rights under The Employment Rights Act 1996 which allows them to take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave to deal with an emergency. There is however no definition of reasonable and the unpaid element can make this a problem leading to parents returning to work and not having the time to grieve.

Between now and the provisions coming into force there will be more detail on these new rights (you will note some of these points do require further clarification) however the act provides that:

  • A bereaved parent is entitled to take at least 2 weeks’ leave which must be taken before the end of 56 days (beginning with the day of the child’s death) – the leave must be taken in blocks of 1 week but can be continuous or discontinuous.
  • Leave can be taken in respect of each child, where the death of more than one child is involved.  A child is a person under the age of 18 (and includes a stillborn child after 24 weeks of pregnancy).
  • The definition of a qualifying parent may be framed (in whole or part) by reference to the employee’s care of the child before he/she died (Regulations will provide more detail on the definition).
  • There will be similarities to the rights during maternity leave including the right to the same terms and conditions and to return to the same role. Remember that mothers who lose a child after 24 weeks of pregnancy, or during maternity leave, will not lose their entitlement to maternity leave and pay.
  • The rates of pay are also to be determined by the Regulations but in order to receive pay (rather than be able to take leave), a parent must have at least 26 weeks’ service and received pay above the lower earnings limit for the last 8 weeks.

So what can you do now?

Now is the time to think about your provision for bereavement and how you would handle this. As the legislation comes into effect you will need to update your bereavement policy (if you are a client of HR2day we will do this for you), but it’s also an opportunity to think about what else you might offer and how else you can offer support during a difficult time.

How comfortable are your managers in having difficult conversations about topics like this? Although your managers are not (nor would you want them to be) there to counsel, they do need to be able to talk about sensitive and emotive topics. Have they have the training to help them with this, without it many managers default to putting their head in the sand which can create bigger problems later down the line. There is also a religious consideration to make with respect to bereavement as different religions may grieve in different ways.

If you have any questions please contact us on 01325 288388 (option 2)


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