Expert commentary by Cheshire employment law expert Latham Parry.
From April 2020 working parents who suffer the death of a child under the age of 18 years are set to be entitled to two weeks’ paid bereavement leave.
The UK Government has said that this will be the most generous offer on parental bereavement pay and leave anywhere in the world.
The Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 and the Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020 will be known as Jack’s Law in memory of Jack Herd, whose mother campaigned for 10 years following his death.
Jack’s father was only given three days away from his work to grieve the devastating loss of his son - one of these days having to be used for Jack’s funeral.
The regulations will introduce the right for employed parents to take two weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer.
As well as birth parents, the entitlements will be available to adults with parental responsibility such as adoptive parents, parents who are fostering to adopt, and legal guardians.
Leave can be taken either as a single block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week, each taken at different times during the period of 56 weeks following their child’s death.
This will provide parents with discretion to decide when they most need the take the leave, such as in the days following their loss or over the first anniversary.
Parents who have been employed for at least 26 weeks will be entitled to pay during this leave, provided that they the minimum earnings criteria. Statutory parental bereavement pay will be paid at a rate of £151.20 per week or at 90 per cent of weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
Employees entitled to parental bereavement leave will be protected in law from being subjected to any detriment or dismissal attributable to the fact that they took or sought to take parental bereavement leave.
While Jack’s Law will no doubt be welcomed, the notice requirements which have to be complied with are, unfortunately, unpleasantly onerous for grieving parents.
Employers need to ensure that they are aware of this significant change in the law and what additional support they are able to provide to bereaved parents in their place of work during the difficult grieving process.
If they are unsure or have any queries, we recommend they speak to an experienced employment lawyer.