New right to bereavement leave from April

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The Government has announced that a statutory right to parental bereavement leave will be introduced in April.

This means that any employee who loses a child under the age of 18, or suffers a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory pay.

The current Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill had received Royal Assent in 2018 following a campaign run by Lucy Herd, whose young son, Jack, passed away in 2010. At the time, the child’s father was only given three days off work to grieve.  

In recognition Ministers have said this new legal right will be known as Jack’s law.

What is the change?

Currently, UK employees have no automatic right to paid time off for bereavement. Whilst many employers will have in place a policy allowing for employees to take some compassionate leave many are left having to take annual leave or unpaid time off.

This reflects the fact the only statutory right for employees is to take time off for a ‘dependant,’ which includes time taken to deal with unexpected emergencies and time to arrange or attend a funeral. However, there is no set period of time that can be taken off for a dependent, only that it should be ‘reasonable’.

From April, parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will now be able to take bereavement leave as either a single block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each during the first year after the death.

In addition, those with 26 weeks’ continuous service and average earnings at or above the lower earnings limit (£118 per week) will also be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay of £151.20 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. These rates of pay are subject to review in April of each year.

What do employers need to do?

Employers may want to review their current policies and procedures prior to the April changes to ensure that they provide at least the minimum levels of benefits that will be required. Please call your usual Employment Team contact for further details.

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