From 6 April 2020, employees will be entitled to take parental bereavement leave (PBL) following the death of a child. This is a new right from which the Government estimates around 10,000 parents a year will benefit. Joanne Kavanagh in the employment team, summarises the main changes set out in the draft Regulations, which are subject to parliamentary approval but unlikely to be changed.
Who is entitled to parental bereavement leave?
All employees whatever their length of service, will be entitled to PBL following the death of their child aged under 18 or, stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The right applies to deaths or stillbirths occurring on or after 6 April 2020.
To qualify, the employee must be the parent, adopter, prospective adopter, intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement, a parent ‘in fact’ (someone looking after that child in that person’s home for the last four weeks) but not a paid carer other than a local authority paid foster carer. Partners are also included.
How long is the period of leave?
PBL is for up to two weeks to be taken within one year of the death. Employees will be able to take one or two blocks of one week that do not need to be taken consecutively or, a single period of two weeks.
Is it paid?
Employees employed for six months or more and earning above the lower earnings limit are entitled to be paid Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP) at the same rate as other statutory family leave payments such as statutory paternity pay.
How much notice must be given?
There is no requirement for written notice although certain basic information must be provided. Employees eligible for SPBP, must give notice within 28 days of taking PBL or where this is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable.
Employees not eligible to be paid, taking PBL within the first seven weeks of the death, are only required to tell the employee before they start work on the day they want leave to begin or, as soon as reasonably practicable. Where the leave is to start from week 8 onwards the employee must give at least a week’s notice.
How does this work with the other statutory family leave rights?
All employees are also entitled to take unpaid time off for emergencies (normally 1 or 2 days) e.g. for arranging or attending a dependent’s funeral. Employees will still be able to take maternity leave where the child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
What should employers do now?
We advise employers implement a policy or review their existing policy on compassionate or bereavement leave to ensure managers and supervisors comply with this new law and to ensure consistency of treatment at a time of personal tragedy. Employers will also need to decide whether and in what circumstances to exceed the statutory minimum entitlement such as paying full pay for PBL.
From day one of employment, employees will have the right not to be disadvantaged by taking PBL and to claim unfair dismissal if they are dismissed because of taking or seeking to take PBL.
We expect to see other changes to family friendly rights and employment law generally in 2020 and so do check our blogs or, sign up for our regular e-bulletin and seminars to find out more by clicking here. Should you have any queries about this or any other employment law issue please contact a member of our employment team on 01252 316316.