New statutory parental bereavement leave

The Parental and Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations, known as Jack’s Law in memory of Jack Herd whose mother Lucy campaigned tirelessly on the issue, is set to take effect from 6 April 2020, giving employees the right to paid parental bereavement leave.

There is currently no legal obligation for employers to give paid bereavement leave. The Employment Rights Act 1996 only gives employees the legal right to take unpaid ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with an emergency – which would include the death of a child.

From April 2020 however, all employed parents and adults with parental responsibility who have suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18 have a ‘day one’ right to unpaid time off. Those with a continuous employment period of at least 26 weeks before the child’s death are eligible for paid parental bereavement leave. This also applies to a parent who suffers a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The entitlement is to two weeks’ leave. This can either be taken either as one block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week each. It must be taken within 56 weeks of the date of the child’s death.

The proposed legislation also offers protection from loss of employment due to absence from work after the death of a child. It makes the UK one of a very few countries worldwide to offer such support and the first to offer a full 2 weeks.

Other things that employers should consider:

●      Female employees will also be entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and/or pay, as will a mother who loses a child after it is born.

●      Employers should bear in mind differing bereavement traditions and are reminded that refusing to allow an employee these to be observed could amount to discrimination.

●      Employers should observe the Data Protection Act 2018 which includes the employee’s right to keep details of their child’s death confidential.

●      Employers may want to consider offering additional paid or unpaid leave and also bear in mind that despite it being a day one right, some employees may not be able to take up unpaid leave.

●      Grief can lead to wider health issues including depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which could constitute a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and reasonable adjustments must be made.

Posted on 5 February, 2020 by Ortolan

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