The death of a child must be truly traumatic for any parent.
The last thing they want to be concerned about is feeling obliged to rush back to work straight after losing a child. Allowing a period of time off to grieve is often effective in helping overcome bereavement in the long term.
From 6th April 2020, the UK Government brought the right to take bereavement leave for parents into law. Initially known as ‘Jack’s law’, named after a little boy who tragically died in 2010, this new right allows parents who lose a child (either by them passing away or by the parents experiencing a stillbirth) under the age of 18 to have 2 weeks’ paid leave.
What’s the detail behind the paid bereavement leave entitlement?
Eligible employees can take two weeks of leave, when they suffer either a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy or their child (under the age of 18) passes away.
Employees have the right to take this leave from day one of their employment and can take it as:
- 2 weeks together
- 2 separate weeks of leave
- only one week of leave
A ‘week’ is the same number of days that you normally work in a typical week. So if an employee only works two days, this will count as one week of leave.
When can the employee take paid bereavement leave?
The Act gives eligible employees a period of 56 weeks in which to take this leave (from the date of losing their child). The leave can be taken immediately following the bereavement or within 56 days of this date. This means that some parents may decide to return to work before having a period of time off.
How much is paid bereavement leave pay?
There is a right to be paid for this period, should the parent meet specific eligibility criteria. Those who are entitled to be paid will receive either the rate set by the Government each year (currently set at £151.20 per week) or 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
If you have suffered a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, you are still entitled to take your full entitlement to maternity and paternity leave, provided you were eligible to take maternity or paternity leave in the first place. This entitlement is in addition to parental bereavement leave. Parental bereavement leave cannot be taken at the same time as maternity or paternity leave.
Where more than one child dies or is stillborn, you are entitled to two weeks of parental bereavement leave in relation to each child.
Does the new paid bereavement leave provision go far enough?
Whilst two weeks doesn’t seem anywhere near enough in itself, it is a start.
The hope is that UK employers will go over and above the legislative minimum when it comes to compassionate leave during such difficult times.
Everyone deals with grief in different ways. It can be difficult for employers to know how to best manage and ensure that they are supporting grieving parents. Some working parents may want to return to work and their previous routine relatively quickly, whilst others will want a longer time to grieve. Returning to work too soon and not giving oneself enough time to work through the grieving process can have a significant and detrimental impact on the well-being and mental health of your employees.
What should employers do next?
We strongly recommend that employers take a sensitive approach to the statutory notice requirements and advise that Parental Bereavement Leave policies signpost employees to additional support, such as an Employee Assistance Programme or external charity or counselling services. It would be good practice to consider other ways that you as an employer can support grieving parents, such as offering flexible working where possible.
Who are Cornerstone Resources?
Based in South Manchester, we are experienced HR professionals. Contact us if we can help you put a parental bereavement leave policy together or if you have any other HR issue. Click here for details of our Outsourced HR packages or call Rob on 07494 161169 or Nicci on 07908 875146 for more information.