Parental Bereavement Leave
Parental Bereavement Leave is a new Statutory entitlement that will be introduced in April 2020. The legislation makes it compulsory for employers to offer two weeks of bereavement leave to parents after the death of a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
This page was first published on 9 November 2016. The last update was on 9 January 2020.
Currently, employees who have suffered a bereavement can only rely on the existing statutory right to take a ‘reasonable’ period of time off to deal with an emergency, such as a bereavement involving a dependent, or an employer’s policy in this area, if they have one or discretion if they don’t have one.
Technically time off to care for dependants only provides emergency unpaid leave and is specifically to take action necessary as a consequence of the death of a dependant. The type of action contemplated by the statute is arranging the funeral or registering the death. Therefore, employees needing a longer period of time to cope with the emotional reaction to a death resort to taking a combination of sick leave, holiday and unpaid leave.
Parental Bereavement Leave Legislation
Employees who have 26 weeks’ continuous service and whose normal weekly earnings in the weeks up to the week before the child’s death are no less than the lower earnings limit for national insurance contribution purposes will also benefit from statutory parental bereavement pay, the cost of which employers will be able to recover from the Government.
The legislation states that grieving parents must be paid no less than 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings, or the Lower Rate of SMP which is £156.66 for the 2022-23 tax year), whichever is lesser.
Employees can take one week or two weeks leave, when taking two weeks the period can be taken as one block of two consecutive weeks or two separate blocks each of one week.
The leave must be taken within a 56-week window from the child’s death, to allow time for moments such as anniversaries, and notice requirements are flexible so leave can be taken without prior notice. A week can start on any day of the week.
As the entitlement is a paid entitlement it needs to be clearly explained within the Section 1 Statement.
If you currently have an ad-hock approach to compassionate leave I recommend introducing a more formal approach so the difference between the general bereavement leave and the new entitlement for parents is clear. You don’t want staff thinking they’ll be entitled to two weeks of paid leave when Great Aunty Dot dies.
Setting some boundaries also helps ensure all staff are dealt with consistently.
There is also a separate issue relating to the different religious approaches to bereavement. In Hinduism, when a death occurs, relatives are required to observe a 13-day mourning period after cremation. In Judaism, family members are required to stay at home for seven days of mourning after a death. Whilst employers could use their discretion when dealing with an employee of a certain religion to avoid discrimination, having a clear statutory framework as a starting point may help to avoid issues in this area.
Employee Handbook Compliance Package