Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Under the new Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018, starting in 2020, parents who experience the unfortunate loss of a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy will be entitled to two weeks’ leave. Employees become eligible for this leave once they have 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer.
Employees who take bereavement leave will be entitled to statutory pay only, currently set at £145.18 per week. As with other types of family leave paid at this statutory rate (for example, shared parental leave), use of this new right may be low given the financial disincentive to take the leave for most families. Some employers, however, may choose to offer enhanced pay in line with their compassionate leave policy,1 particularly given the infrequent and traumatic circumstances in which this leave and pay will operate. In practice, employers may already be allowing employees to take paid leave on the death of a child by exercising discretion under their compassionate leave policy, so the new rules may in fact make little difference.
Other maternity rights
Employers should remember that mothers who lose a child after 24 weeks of pregnancy or during maternity leave will not lose their entitlement to maternity leave and pay. In addition, the employee will still be prohibited from returning to work for at least two weeks after giving birth. Rights to paternity leave and shared parental leave will also generally be maintained.
Practical steps for employers
So what does this mean in practice? It is recommended that employers review and update their family and compassionate leave policies and practices ahead of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act's expected implementation in 2020. As part of the policy review, employers may want to review the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service's (Acas)2 newly published guidance, which contains some helpful information about dealing with bereavement in the workplace generally.
1 Compassionate leave, which is a voluntary employer-provided leave benefit, can be paid or unpaid leave taken where a close relative dies or becomes seriously ill.
2 The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, or Acas, is an independent agency that provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law including the issuance of statutory Codes of Practice (as is the case here).