Proposed new leave allowance for bereaved parents

Fortunately is an unimaginable scenario for most employees but if their child were to die, their right to any paid leave following the death is dependent on the compassion and flexibility of their employer.

A YouGov survey commissioned by Child Bereavement UK in 2016 showed that less than a third of British adults who were working at the time of their bereavement said they had felt “very supported” by their employer. Reflecting on this issue, the Government has proposed a bill that will alter this, and provide legal support for employees going through such a desperately sad time. We have set out the main provisions of the proposed bill below.

The current position

Currently, there is no legal requirement for employers to provide leave for grieving parents (although it should be noted that many still do). The legal option at the moment, is  to take ‘reasonable’ unpaid leave to deal with an emergency that involves their dependant.

What rights does the proposed bill contain?

The Private Members’ Bill is sponsored by Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake and the key provisions are:

  • all employees will be entitled to a day-one right to a minimum of 2 weeks’ leave on the death of a child (per child) who is under the age of 18 (including a still birth after 24 weeks);
  • Employees with a least 26 week’s service may be entitled to statutory bereavement pay. This will be the lower of 90% of their pay or a rate set by the government (this is likely to be the same rate as statutory maternity pay).
  • employers will be free to agree to top up both the length of time and pay received during the period of leave, and it has been discussed that small Companies may be able to claim the statutory pay back from the Government;
  • during the period of leave, it is envisaged that parents will be entitled to have their employment terms and conditions preserved. Employees will also be protected from dismissal, redundancy and detriment as a result of taking the leave; and
  • the employee may take the leave up to 56 days after the date of the child’s death, and it can be taken in one block or two blocks of a week.

What now?

For most employers, this will not mean much change for them, as they will already offer as much flexibility, compassion and time off that they can afford to employees following the loss of a child.

Going forward, the proposed bill has been ‘warmly welcomed’ by Parliament. It is anticipated that the bill will come into force in 2020, and it is advised that employers may want to amend their policies in anticipation of this.

We will keep you up to date with any developments, but if you have any questions on the contents of this blog, please do not hesitate to contact one of the Employment team by telephone on 0161 926  9969 or by email employment@mlplaw.co.uk.

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