Parents who Lose a Child to be Entitled to Bereavement Leave

Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill received Royal Assent:

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill (the Bill) introduced a new entitlement for parents to take leave following the death of their child. The proposals set out in the Bill were approved by Parliament on 13 September 2018, making the Bill now the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 (the PBA 2018). This is the first piece of UK legislation that addresses this issue, aiming to support those who are affected by the tragedy of losing a child, and is expected to come into force from 2020.

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (the ERA 1996) as it currently stands, Employers are not required to grant leave in such circumstances. Section 57(A) of the ERA 1996, grants employees the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with a necessary situation involving a dependent, with section 57A(1)(c) specifically referring to leave to action which is necessary ‘in consequence of the death of a dependent. However, in the case of Forster v Cartwright Black Solicitors [2004], the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that section 57A(1)(c) does not cover sickness absence due to grief. As such, that provision of the ERA 1996 does not extend to compassionate leave as a result of bereavement.

Changes brought about by the PBA 2018 provide that when a parent loses a child under the age of 18, or suffers a miscarriage after 24 weeks of pregnancy, they will be entitled to two weeks’ leave. This leave will have to be taken within 56 days following the death of the child, and must be taken in either consecutive or non-consecutive one week blocks. Employed parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting certain eligibility criteria, including a 26 week period of continuous employment.

If you have any queries about how the PBA will operate, or how it will affect your employees or employment, please contact the Employment Team who will be able to assist.