There are an estimated 7,500 child deaths in the UK every year.
Since the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill received royal assent in 2018, as of April 2020 parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, are entitled to two weeks’ leave. This can be taken as either a single block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week across the first year after the death. The qualifying period is within 56 weeks following the date of the child’s death.
The government estimates that this new law will help support around 10,000 parents a year.
The new law will be known as Jack’s Law, in memory of Jack Herd. Since 2010 Jack’s mother, Lucy Herd, has been campaigning for reform following the death of her son who drowned at the age of 23 months. She found that 3 days bereavement leave was often the maximum that companies offered to parents to grieve, and anything over that had to be taken as sick or holiday leave.
Lucy Herd said “In the immediate aftermath of a child dying, parents have to cope with their own loss, the grief of their wider family, including other children, as well as a vast amount of administrative paperwork and other arrangements. Sudden or accidental death may require a post-mortem or inquest; there is a funeral to arrange and there are many other organisations to contact, from schools to benefit offices.”
Who is entitled?
Employees have a ‘day one’ right to unpaid bereavement leave; parents are able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.
It is available to birth parents and those with parental responsibility including adoptive parents, fostering parents (emergency foster care may not be covered), those who are fostering to adopt and legal guardians.
Having a bereavement policy that covers pay and absence can help keep things clear and concise. It should cover:
- How soon the bereavement should be reported
- Who can report it e.g. a family member if the employee is not able to do it themselves
- Who it should be reported to e.g. line manager
- What happens if the deceased is not a dependant
- How much leave is provided
- What type of leave it is e.g. whether it’s treated as sick leave
- When a sick/fit note is needed
- How the employee’s return to work is managed e.g. whether they can return on reduced hours if they’re not ready to return full time
It should also cover pay, whether or not it is provided, how much is provided and the type of pay e.g. sick pay.
What employers should be aware of
Anxiety and depression are common conditions for anyone who has been bereaved. Certain mental health conditions are considered disabilities under the law so employers should ensure they don’t discriminate against someone with a disability and make ‘reasonable adjustments’.
Employees have the right to keep their bereavement private from their colleagues by law. It can be helpful for employers to ask their employees if they would like their colleagues to know about the bereavement. If they are advised not to disclose the reason for their absence, it is best to say as little as possible e.g. due to personal reasons.
When someone returns to work following a bereavement, they may still need extra support or time off due to things like mental health or extra responsibilities. Employers should consider the employee’s long term physical and mental health and what’s best for them. Promoting an open and supportive working environment can help prevent problems arising.
This isn’t the only new law coming into place in April 2020. For further information on upcoming changes and how they will affect your business, get in touch on 0161 605 2156 / [email protected].