New right to parental bereavement leave

14 Feb 2020

The government has announced that new laws will come into place in April 2020, giving the right to parental bereavement leave, with pay in some cases, for parents who lose children. The draft regulations have been laid before Parliament and the new laws will cover parents of children who die or are stillborn on or after 6 April 2020.

Who will be eligible to take the leave?

Parental bereavement leave will be available to all employees, regardless of length of service. However there will be a qualifying period of 26 weeks of service for the right to statutory parental bereavement pay.

The main requirement for eligibility is whether the employee is a “bereaved parent”. This will cover natural parents, a person with whom the child has been placed for adoption, a person who has day to day responsibility for the care of the child, or a partner of a person in any of those categories where they live in a family relationship.

The right applies when a child under the age of 18 dies, or where a baby is stillborn after at least 24 weeks of pregnancy.

How and when can leave be taken?

The total leave entitlement is 2 weeks. This can either be taken as two consecutive weeks or as two separate weeks. It can be taken at any time in the period of 56 weeks starting with the date of death.

The regulations set out the requirements around giving notice to the employer that leave is to be taken and how leave can be cancelled or postponed by the employee. Due to the nature of the leave, the notice requirements are minimum if leave is being taken in the initial period following a death, if taken eight weeks or later after the death then the notice period is a week.

What are an employee’s rights during bereavement leave?

During a period of leave, the employee’s rights and benefits continue as normal, with the exception of pay, in exactly the same way as they would for an employee on maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave. Any dismissal connected to the fact that this type of leave was taken will be an automatically unfair dismissal, even for employees without two years of service.

Employees who have at least 26 weeks of continuous service before the week in which the child died, who are still in employment at least until the day the child died, qualify for statutory parental bereavement pay, provided that their earnings are not less than the lower earnings limit in place at that time. Pay is for the two weeks of leave and is paid at statutory rates.

The rights summarised in this article reflect the statutory default position only and there is nothing to stop employers from putting their own rules in place to include more generous terms or more flexibility for employees.

If you would like to discuss the issues raised in the above article further, or would like advice on the preparation of a parental bereavement leave policy for your organisation, please contact Employment Partner Will Walsh by phone or by email.

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