New bereavement leave allowance for parents

The Government has published proposed laws to grant employed parents two weeks’ paid leave if they lose a child under the age of 18. The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill will give a right to parental bereavement leave to all eligible employees. Employees with a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous service will also be entitled to statutory bereavement pay.

At present, there is no legal requirement for employers to grant paid leave for grieving parents, however employers are expected to allow employees reasonable time off to deal with emergencies involving a dependent. There is no set amount of time as it depends on the circumstances. A dependent could be a parent, child, spouse, partner, grandchild, or someone who depends on the employee for care.

The bill comes on the back of a manifesto pledge by the Government and has been welcomed by bereavement charities. Francine Bates, CEO of The Lullaby Trust commented:

“We warmly welcome this new law giving paid leave to bereaved parents. Losing a child is one of the most devastating experiences that a parent can go through and it is vitally important that they are supported by their employer and not made to return to work before they are ready.”

Recent research reported by the CIPD found that one in four workers took no time off work following the death of a loved one, with 11% taking just one day. Margot James, the Business Minister said: “We want parents to feel properly supported by their employer when they go through the deeply distressing ordeal of losing a child. That’s why the Government is backing this bill which goes significantly further than most other countries in providing this kind of workplace right for employees.”

Employers will be able to recover the costs of statutory parental bereavement pay with the Government estimating that the annual cost of statutory payments under this proposal will be between £1.3m and £2m. The bill will have its second reading in Parliament on 20 October, with the aim for it to come into force in 2020.

Acas has helpful existing guidance for employers on managing bereavement in the workplace. It will be interesting to see how effective this new form of leave will be for employees and any impact it may have on employers.

Image source: The Lullaby Trust

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