In January 2020, the Government provided further detail on the new Parental Bereavement Leave (PBL) legislation that are set to come into force from the 6 April 2020. Ahead of its introduction, employers should be aware of their obligations and the legal rights afforded to grieving parents.
- The Current Position
Prior to this legislation coming into force, employers were not under a legal obligation to provide paid time off to grieving parents. Parents instead only had a legal right to take unpaid and ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with an emergency relating to a dependent. From the 6 April 2020, Employees will have the right to take PBL, a period of one or two weeks leave following the death of a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth.
- Eligibility for Parental Bereavement Leave
This right is only conferred to employees and there is no qualifying service in order to take PBL. The individual must also hold the necessary relationship to the child; this includes the child’s parent, adoptive parent or legal guardian, someone who has day to day responsibility for the child as well as the partner of any of the types of parents listed.
- How Parental Bereavement Leave can be taken
PBL must be taken within a 56 week period from the date of the child’s death and may be taken as two consecutive weeks or two separate weeks at different times.
Employees are required to give notice to their employer of their intention to take PBL and the length of notice required is dependent upon how long after the child’s death the leave is due to start. If the leave is within the first 7 weeks, employees need only inform their employer before the time they are due to start work on the day they want leave to start, or as soon as reasonably practicable. If the leave is taken between weeks 8 and 56 after the child’s death, the employee should give 7 days’ notice.
- Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay
Employees taking PBL may also be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay (SPBP). To qualify for SPBP, the employee must hold the necessary relationship to the child (outlined above) and have a minimum of 26 weeks of continuous service, ending with the week before the child’s death. The level of payment is a flat rate and similar to statutory paternity and shared parental pay and an employee is required to give notice of their intention to take SPBP.
- Implications for Employers
Employers should act with compassion and be supportive to any employee going through such a traumatic time. The regulations are flexible in that employers are able to offer more generous support than the regulations provide for.
It is advisable for employers to implement a bereavement or compassionate leave policy or update any existing policies to ensure they contain the minimum terms of leave and pay entitlement set out in the legislation.