In September 2018 the Parental Leave and Pay Bill, protecting the rights of bereaved parents in the UK, achieved Royal Assent, and is expected to come into force in 2020.
The Parental Leave and Pay Act will give all employed parents a day-one right to 2 weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Parents that are employed will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.
With Parental Bereavement Leave about to become a legal right for the first time in UK history, is your business prepared to deal with the trauma and unimaginable impact that comes with the death of an employee’s child?
What has changed?
Grieving parents currently have no automatic right to time off work, although employers are expected to grant “reasonable” leave in emergencies.
Currently under the Employment Rights Act, employees have a day-one right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, which includes making arrangements following a dependant’s death. The length of time off is whatever can be agreed between you as the employer and the employee.
The new law will grant parents the right to two weeks’ leave, paid at 90% of average weekly earnings or the statutory flat rate – which was £140.98 in 2016-17, if they are eligible.
Small firms should be able to reclaim the full cost from the government, with larger firms recouping about 90%.
Your Bereavement Policy
Although all compassionate leave needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis, it is important to have a bereavement policy in place. As an employer, if you have not done so already, the introduction and communication of your bereavement policy will help all workers know what happens on such occasions and their entitlements.
For parents, the loss of a child will be devastating and as an employer you need to recognise that the whole family will be affected. You will need to consider the situation as a whole as you deal with the affected employee. For example, are they a single parent? Was the child an only child or are there siblings involved?
It is only after you answer these questions that you, alongside the employee, will be able to understand how much support will be needed from the workplace. The answers to these questions will influence how much support from the workplace is needed.
Acas recommends in their good practice guide that a single parent with other children to attend to will possibly need more flexibility (such as time off, flexible working and so on) in order to return to full-time work. Some bereaved parents may need a longer-term change in their working hours.
Supporting the other partner is also something to consider. If one parent is not coping as well as the other, your employee may require more flexibility regarding their work hours.
If you need more guidance regarding your bereavement policy, or supporting an employee through the death of a dependent, contact me today