What is the current position?
Parents are entitled to take time off work following the death of a child under the age of 18. There is no obligation on employers to pay their employees during this time and the right only applies to parents.
During a government consultation last year, feedback was that the current rules are insufficient and not always reflective of the reality of the situation. A child may not be under the care of their parents for various reasons and the fact the time off does not have to be paid means some parents are forced back to work before they have had a chance to grieve.
What are the changes?
The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave Act) will extend the entitlement to primary carers such as; adopters, foster parents, guardians, close relatives and family friends. It will also apply to a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Most importantly, the leave will be paid and for a minimum of two weeks, to be taken either in one single block of two weeks or as separate blocks of one week across the first year after the child’s death.
The changes will cover any working parent or carer regardless of how long they have worked for their employer and those who have been employed for 6 months or longer will also be able to claim statutory pay at the same rate as statutory paternity pay (provided they meet the minimum criteria). Others will be entitled to unpaid leave.
When will the changes take effect?
The rules will be effective from 6 April 2020.
What should employers be doing now?
If they do not already do so, it is important that employers ensure they are adopting supportive cultures and training line managers to be able to have sensitive conversations with employees.
It may be that employers also start to think about what arrangements they need to put into place to support parents after a period of bereavement leave e.g. flexible working.
Staff handbooks should be updated as soon as possible so it is clear to employees what their rights are in these circumstances important that employers.
Lauren Cope is a Solicitor in our Employment team and is able to assist employers and employees with any employment law and HR issues that they might have. For more details please contact Lauren on 0121 796 4026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.