For many years there has been no statutory allowance or paid leave for employees who experience the death of a child. This is, however, soon to be rectified with the introduction of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 “the Act”. This is the first law of its kind in the UK to assist employees during a traumatic time and is expected to come into force in 2020.
Currently, the only right to assist employees in this situation is provided for under section 57 (A) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which allows employees to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time to deal with an emergency, and what is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the circumstances.
The new legislation provides employees with a statutory entitlement of at least two weeks paid leave (which must be used within fifty-six days beginning with the date of the child’s death), should they experience the unimaginable death of a child. It is intended to go some way to ease the pressure on parents grieving for a child.
Whilst the Act brings a welcomed improvement to employee welfare, it is worth noting the definition of ‘child’ only includes children from babies who are stillborn after twenty-four weeks of pregnancy, to individuals up to the age of 18. This calls into question whether the Act is sufficient as, if an employee suffers the loss of a child over the age of 18, an equal tragedy, they will not be entitled to any paid leave under the Act. In order for an employee to qualify for the statutory payment they are required to have continuous service of employment of at least twenty-six weeks.
When the Regulations are published, they will provide further details on the Act, including, the definition of ‘bereaved parent’, the notice and evidence which will be required and the rate of statutory pay.
It is important for employers to remember that in the meantime, there is no legislation providing payment for bereavement leave. We recommend that Companies continue to follow their usual absence policies and ensure that these are up-to-date. Employers could also consider using a written bereavement policy to provide employees with clarity at a difficult time.