The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill has now been announced to allow parents a period of paid leave after suffering the loss of a child.
Last year we reported that the Parental Bereavement Leave (Statutory Entitlement) Bill 2016-17 (the Bill) had been put before the House of Commons to allow for the introduction of specific statutory rights in the area of bereavement leave for parents, as opposed to employees simply relying on the existing statutory right to take a 'reasonable' period of time off to deal with an emergency. At that time it was proposed that, where new laws were to be passed, the Bill would amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to allow parents a statutory right to two weeks paid leave after suffering the loss of a child.
The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill has now been introduced to Parliament, and to make provision for statutory entitlement to leave of absence (at least two weeks) from employment for bereaved parents, allowing them a period of time to grieve for a deceased child and support the other parent or parents. This new proposal also confirms that the rate of pay payable will be similar to the statutory rate for maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental pay, i.e. at a rate not less than 90 per cent of the employee's average earnings, or £139.58 per week (as it was from April 2016), whichever is the lower.
These proposals will be considered again by Parliament in Autumn 2017, when the Bill receives its Second Reading. Between now and then, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has confirmed that it will work with employers, employee representative and campaigners on behalf of working families to better understand the needs of bereaved parents and employers. New laws are not expected until 2018 at the earliest.
Best practice guidance
Employers must remember that every bereavement and the impact of it will be different to all employees, largely depending upon the relationships involved.
Employers, if they haven't done so already, should consider putting in place a specific bereavement policy in order to manage this difficult issue, and ensure that managers and HR teams are trained to be able to deal with sensitive matters in a compassionate manner.
Policies should include details about:
- the notification of absence and the reason for this
- the need to remain in contact and how to do so
- the need for review any situation specific to the circumstances involved
- any specific entitlement to bereavement leave, i.e. the length of leave
- matters concerning the return to work and any adjustments that may be necessary
- matters concerning paid time off (if any)
- any employee support that is available
ACAS has also provided guidance in the area of bereavement in the workplace which can be found here.