Employers are not currently obliged to grant compassionate leave (or provide pay during any such leave) in the event of bereavement or family illness. The legal position will change from 6 April 2020 when new statutory rights come into force.
Employees will be entitled to statutory parental bereavement leave in circumstances where they lose a child under the age of 18 (which includes a still birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy). The main aspects that employers should be aware of and plan for are listed below:
- Leave is only available to employees.
- There is no minimum length of service requirement.
- The right will be available to all legal parents , as well as to legal guardians, individuals who have obtained court orders giving them day-to-day responsibility for caring for the child as well as to those living in an enduring family relationship with the child and the parent.
- Statutory parental bereavement leave will need to be taken either as a single block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week.
- The leave will need to be taken during the period of 56 weeks from the date of the child's death.
- The notification requirements are:
- during the first seven weeks employees need only give notice of their intention to take the leave before they are due to start work on the first day of leave.
- from weeks eight to 56 the employee must give at least a week's notice.
- leave can be cancelled or re-arranged with the same degree of notice as above.
- Statutory parental bereavement pay will be paid to employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous service ending with the 'relevant week' which is the week before the child died.
- The rate of pay will be the same as statutory paternity pay and shared parental pay.
Many employers do not operate a bereavement leave policy but are compassionate to their employees in such difficult circumstances. It is not necessary to have a policy but to allow the right to be exercised and statutory payments made. The benefit of a policy is that all staff are treated equally and know and understand their rights.
In addition, employers may choose to exceed the statutory minimum requirements set out in the regulations, for example by increasing the amount of pay each week or extending the number of week's leave.
Employers who are interested in either a policy which covers the new statutory parental bereavement leave, or a compassionate leave policy in general, are encouraged to get in touch - we will be able to discuss the options with you, including the pros and cons of introducing a policy, or amending an existing one.