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Parental Bereavement Leave

How to Handle Bereavement in the Workplace

Posted by Supportis Legal Experts in HR and Employment Law

The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 2018 has now been passed by royal assent. It is expected to come into force in 2020 and will give all employed parents the right to 2 weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

Support in the Workplace

The behaviour and attitudes of employers and colleagues is crucial and will affect how well parents and their partners cope with their bereavement and how soon they feel able to return to work.

One policy fits all does not apply to these situations. Parents will be going through immense emotional distress and can often become depressed. Offering a supportive management style as well as complying with maternity and paternity considerations will enable employees to receive the right support and care.

Different Types of Bereavement

Employers should find time to educate themselves on pregnancy complications which an employee may unfortunately experience. Parental bereavement can include:

Over 11,000 ectopic pregnancies leading to the loss of a baby occur per year and about 9 babies every day are lost through still births. If parents experience the loss of their baby, they still can be entitled to maternity and paternity leave if they meet the normal qualifying conditions.

Understanding Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowances enables an employer to ensure employees receive all the financial support they are entitled to. However, if an employee has experienced a miscarriage they can ask for compassionate leave, sick pay, annual pay or unpaid leave.

Legal Considerations

Pregnancy and work obligations are a tricky and complex area and an employer may find themselves faced with tribunals if they have not complied with employee rights. In a recent case Mrs Loubser was considered at high risk with her pregnancy and was signed off work early by her doctors, however, when asking to return to work she was turned away from her employer. She won £17,000 in her tribunal case which was largely due to sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. Negative attitudes towards pregnancy are not uncommon however, as one in five mothers report having experienced harassment or negative comments because of either pregnancy or flexible working; scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 100,000 women a year.

Law states that companies must pay time off for antenatal appointments and consider that those more at risk of miscarriages will have more than usual. However an HMRC survey found that 10% of mothers – 53,000 women – said their employer discouraged them from attending antenatal appointments, putting their health at risk.

Despite recent advances, employer attitudes still need to be changed. 41% of employers agreed that a woman’s pregnancy puts an “unnecessary cost burden” on the workplace whilst 59% believe women should disclose if they are pregnant during the recruitment process. However, the cost to employers of women being forced to leave their job as a result of pregnancy and maternity-related potential discrimination or disadvantage was estimated to be around £278.8 million over the course of 2016 which compared to supporting expectant mothers is a vastly increased cost burden.

Losing a child is unimaginable for many, however, for some it is the reality. Having policies in place and creating plans of how to support employees who find themselves in this situation will help remove unnecessary stress. Our team can tell you more about the legal obligations associated with pregnancy and loss and create plans or provide advice on HR strategies, just book a free consultation or contact one of our Employment Law advisors on 0161 603 2156.

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