The Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 came into force on 6 April 2020, meaning bereaved parents are now entitled to one or two weeks’ leave (and in some cases pay) following the loss of a child under the age of 18, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
When does the right apply?
This new right, known as “Jack’s Law” in memory of Jack Herd whose mother Lucy campaigned on the issue, applies to deaths or stillbirths occurring on or after 6 April 2020. Employees are eligible from the first day of their employment (but the right does not cover workers, the self-employed or most agency workers).
The definition of "bereaved parent" in the regulations has been widely drafted to include most types of parental and quasi-parental relationships (including the child's biological parent(s), any adoptive parent, prospective adopter, intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement, a parent "in fact", or that person's partner), but not a paid carer.
It is worth noting that parental bereavement leave (PBL) can be used at any time during the first 56 weeks after a child’s death or stillbirth. This 56 week window allows bereaved parents to take some or all of the leave around the date of the anniversary of their child’s death, if they wish to do so.
As with other family-related rights, the regulations include specific notice provisions, legal protections for employees who take PBL, as well as rules on eligibility for parental bereavement leave pay (PBLP).
Next steps for employers
While we appreciate that it can be difficult for employers to keep up-to-speed with compliance issues during the current Covid-19 crisis, it is important to take note of this important legal development and consider how best to update your existing policies.
Grief following the loss of a child is an extremely personal issue which needs to be addressed sensitively. Establishing clear policies can therefore be key to balancing the needs of bereaved parents, who often need a period of time away from work, with your needs as an employer (such as having a degree of certainty over when employees will be absent, so that you can make contingency arrangements).
When putting in place and operating a policy to deal with PBL - which may either involve you updating an existing compassionate leave policy, or drafting a new policy which exclusively covers PBL - you will need to consider how much leave you are prepared to offer and how much you will pay during this period. PBLP is the statutory minimum payment, but some employers choose to pay more than this.
You will also need to consider how entitlements to PBL and PBLP interact with any existing policies and statutory regimes, such as to any company compassionate leave, annual leave, time off for dependants, other family related leave, sick leave and/or unpaid leave.
We have prepared a model “Policy - compassionate leave and parental bereavement leave (and request form)” to assist employers, which is available for Make UK members to download here in the resources section.
How we can help
If you would like further guidance on preparing a parental bereavement leave policy and/or in relation to any other family rights in the workplace (e.g. maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental, parental leave and pay obligations) please call 0808 168 5874.
Make UK members can also download a number of templates, forms and other helpful tools relating to family rights and flexible working by clicking here.