New right to paid parental bereavement leave from 6 April
A new right to bereavement leave and pay for parents who lose a child will come into force on 6 April 2020.
Parents who lose a child under the age of 18, including a stillbirth from 24 week of pregnancy, will be entitled to take up to two weeks parental bereavement leave. The right is only available to employees and no qualifying period of service is required. A parent includes a birth parent, adoptive parent, prospective adopter, an intended parent in a surrogacy arrangement, a parent “in fact” (someone looking after the child in that person’s own home for the last four weeks before the child's death), or that person’s spouse, partner or civil partner. This does not include a paid carer.
Employees will be able to take one week’s leave, two continuous weeks’ leave or two separate weeks’ leave and they will be able to take it at any time within 56 weeks of the child’s death. Leave can start on any day of the week. Where an employee takes leave within 56 days of the child’s death, they only have to notify their employer of their intention to take it before they are due to start work (or a soon as reasonably practicable). Otherwise they must give one week’s notice. Leave can be cancelled and rearranged with the same amount of notice.
Rights during leave and on return
While on bereavement leave, an employee will be entitled to the same terms and conditions except those relating to remuneration. Remuneration is replaced with statutory bereavement pay for those that qualify. In the majority of cases, employees on bereavement leave will be entitled to return to the same job. However, where the leave is combined with parental leave of more than four weeks, or other family-related leave in respect of the same child resulting in the employee’s absence for more than 26 weeks, the employer may offer another suitable and appropriate job if it is not reasonably practicable to allow the employee to return to the same job. Terms and conditions must be no less favourable.
Employees will be protected against dismissal and detriment for exercising their right to take leave. A dismissal will be automatically unfair if the reason or principal reason is connected to them having taken leave or because the employer believes they will take leave.
Employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks ending with the week before the child died will be eligible to receive statutory parental bereavement pay, provided they meet the qualifying conditions. Statutory parental bereavement pay is paid at the prescribed rate, which will be £151.20 per week. They only qualify if their normal weekly earnings in the eight weeks before the child’s death were at or above the lower earnings limit.
Employees will have to give notice to their employer specifying the week or weeks they are claiming pay for. They will have to give this before the start of the bereavement pay period or no more than 28 days after the first day of that period (or as soon as reasonably practicable).
Those who are not employees (and so not entitled to be bereavement leave) but who are employed earners for National Insurance Contributions purposes may also qualify for statutory parental bereavement pay.
Employers who already have a compassionate leave policy in place may need to amend it to ensure it reflects the new entitlement to statutory bereavement leave and pay. Whilst they may already offer more than the statutory entitlement, their policy may need amending, for example to reflect the fact that leave can be taken at any time within 56 weeks of the child's death. Employers may also want to introduce notification requirements to enable them to pay statutory pay and recover it from the government.
Employers who do not offer compassionate leave may wish to introduce a policy so that employees know how to exercise the right should they need to.
The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.