Parental Bereavement Leave
In October 2017, the government confirmed its backing for a private members’ bill, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill. The Bill, which became the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act on 13 September 2018, will entitle employees who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy, to two weeks’ unpaid leave, as a right from day one of their employment.
The act is expected to come into force in 2020.
Employers can start to prepare by:
- Considering a written policy – Employers should consider having a written bereavement leave policy in place, as this can provide certainty and security at a difficult time.
- Being aware of religious and cultural requirements around bereavement – Employers should be aware of the risk of racial or religious discrimination claims that may arise from refused requests for time off for religious observances on death. Certain religions require a set time for mourning.
- Preparing for the possible long-term effects of bereavement – The effect of grief could manifest itself both physically and mentally, resulting in a long-term condition or illness. Employers should be mindful of this should there be a change in performance, behaviour or absence. Requests for time off or increased sickness leave should therefore be treated carefully, in the knowledge that a long-term condition could give rise to the risk of a disability discrimination claim.
- Being aware of bereaved mothers’ maternity leave 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. Rights to paternity leave and shared parental leave (where notice of leave has been given) will generally also be maintained in these circumstances.