Hello and welcome to our latest employment video. My name’s Paul Griffin and I’m Head of the Norton Rose Fulbright Employment Team in London.
Until now, there’s been no specific legal right for an employee to take compassionate leave in the event of bereavement, whether on the death of a family member, or anyone else close to the employee.
Any rights to leave or pay in these circumstances depend on what’s agreed with the employer, either by way of contractual rights, or rights set out in a workplace policy.
However, following a period of consultation, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act became law on the 13th of September this year – for the first time the Act introduces rights for bereaved parents.
Whilst the Act is now in force, its provisions won’t become effective until regulations are finalised – this isn’t expected until some time during 2020.
The Act sets out the key elements of the new rights, with some of the finer details to be set out in the Regulations.
These new rights are the subject of today’s video.
Statutory right to parental bereavement leave
First, the Act creates a statutory right to parental bereavement leave.
This entitles an employee who is a “bereaved parent” to be absent from work for a period of at least two weeks.
An employee will be a “bereaved parent” if they satisfy the conditions as to their relationship with a child under the age of 18, who has died. (This also includes a child who is stillborn or who dies after 24 weeks’ of pregnancy).
The conditions will be set out in the Regulations, and may relate to the employee’s care of the child before their death. Whilst not specified, it’s likely, therefore, that the employee won’t necessarily have to be either the biological or adoptive parent of the child.
The Act specifies that the leave must be taken before the end of a period which will be set out in the Regulations – but this will be a period of at least 56 days after the child’s death.
Exactly when the leave may be taken will also be set out in the Regulations.
If an employee is eligible for leave as a result of the death of more than one child, then they’ll be entitled to leave in respect of each child.
The terms and conditions of employment will continue during parental bereavement leave to the extent set out in the Regulations, but these will not include the right to remuneration.
Statutory right to parental bereavement pay
The Act goes on to create a statutory right to parental bereavement pay, which is payable during the weeks of parental bereavement leave.
This right to pay is subject to a minimum qualifying period of employment of 26 weeks.
The weeks of leave don’t necessarily have to be taken consecutively, but further details on precisely how the leave may be taken, and the notification requirements required, will be set out in the Regulations.
Statutory parental bereavement pay will be payable at a fixed rate to be specified in the Regulations - this is likely to be the same flat rate as for statutory maternity and paternity pay.
However, if an employer pays enhanced contractual bereavement pay, then the statutory fixed rate payable can be offset against this.
Advice for employers
These new rights relate to leave and pay in the event of parental bereavement on the death of a child only.
They don’t apply in the event of the death of an adult son or daughter, or of another close relative or friend. For now, any such rights should continue to be dealt with in accordance with the terms of the employment contract or workplace policy.
It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that, subject to the usual qualifying requirements, the mothers of babies who are stillborn after 24 weeks’ of pregnancy are already entitled to the full period of statutory maternity leave and pay – and the mother’s partner is also entitled to ordinary paternity leave and pay in these circumstances.
Although the new rights aren’t yet in force, it would be a good idea to consider reviewing any bereavement policies now – and to draft any changes necessary to reflect the new rights when they become law. The detail of course will have to await publication of the Regulations.
This video is intended to provide you with a summary of the new rights to parental bereavement leave and pay. We shall of course let you know when the supporting regulations are published, but if you’d like any more information, or have any questions on any aspect of today’s topic, then please don’t hesitate to contact us.