Parental bereavement leave law takes effect

As of Monday 6th April 2020, employees who have sadly suffered the loss of a child are entitled to two weeks’ Parental Bereavement Leave.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 offers two weeks’ leave for employees who lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Parents can take the leave over one week, two continuous weeks, or two separate weeks, starting on any day of the week, and at any point within 56 weeks of the child’s death or stillbirth. The right to take two weeks’ bereavement leave will apply to all employees from day one of employment. Employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service, who meet minimum earnings criteria and provide the right amount of notice, will also be entitled to be paid statutory bereavement leave pay (SBLP).

SBLP will be paid at the same rate as statutory paternity pay i.e. £151.20 per week (from 6th April 2020) or 90% of an employee’s weekly earnings if lower. It is important to note that employers can also choose to top up SBLP to an employee’s usual rate of pay if they so choose.

The new law applies to parents, adoptive parents, intended parents, parents-in-fact (someone looking after the child in that person’s own home for the last four weeks) and the partner of any of these individuals as well as foster carers, employees with day to day responsibility for the child (so long as they are not being paid to care for the child) and employees who expect to be granted a parental order in respect of the child.

The notice requirements for parental bereavement leave differ according to when the employee is taking the leave:

  • During the first eight weeks following a bereavement, an employee need only give notice of their intention to take leave to the employer at some point before they are due to start work on their first day of leave or as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Or, an employee must provide one week’s notice to the employer if leave is to be taken between 56 days and 56 weeks following the bereavement.

When an employee gives an employer notice that they intend to take bereavement leave, the law states that an employee must provide the date of the child’s death, the date that they would like their leave to start and whether they are planning to take one or two weeks leave. An employee is not required to provide a copy of the child’s death certificate. There is no formality for how the employer should be informed a telephone call, voicemail or text message from the employee to their manager is sufficient.

In order to receive SPBP, an employee must also give notice to their employer either before the start of the leave or within 28 days after the first day of the leave or as soon as possible. The notice does not need to be in writing unless the employer requests it. When giving notice, the employee must provide their name, the date of the child’s death or stillbirth and confirmation that they meet the eligibility criteria of a “bereaved parent”.

Although this appears complicated, it does not need to be. In many cases, upon the death of the child, the employee would simply have a conversation with their employer and would state that they would like to take leave, and this would be treated by the employer as a sufficient notification for leave.

Taking bereavement leave does not affect existing rights to maternity or paternity leave, which are still available to employees in the event of a stillbirth or a neonatal death from 24 weeks of pregnancy.

If employers have not already done so, we would urge them to review their approach to the issue of child bereavement and ensure a policy is put in place to deal with bereavement leave and pay.

This is a sensitive area of law and so if you’d like any help and advice when it comes to parental bereavement leave please contact our team on 0121 321 3333