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New law coming - Statutory Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay

with new laws approaching it's time ....

Campaigners have long been calling for statutory bereavement leave, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act will meet some, but not all of their demands.  In this article we look at the implications of the Act for employers (due to become law in a year or two) and at the topic of bereavement leave and pay generally.

Bereavement leave – time off work following the death of a partner or relative – has been the subject of press coverage for a while. Currently employers don’t have to allow time off for employees after a bereavement, and any leave that is granted doesn’t have to be paid.  Practices vary widely, many of our smaller business clients will offer up to 3 days unpaid leave for close relatives or partners and a day for other relatives if it is needed.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill (which has just received Royal Assent) is due to become law in 2020, and while we don’t yet have the detail of the regulations we do know that it will provide a much more limited right for parents only to take up to 2 weeks bereavement leave after the death of a child under the age of 18 or if there is a still birth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, and that such leave would need to be taken within 56 days of the child’s death – a similar period as for paternity leave, which is unlikely to be coincidental. We also know that the ‘pay’ element will mirror existing statutory family pay of £145.18 (next due to be reviewed April 2019) and that there will be a minimum service requirement for parents to qualify – probably 26 weeks service at the point of the child’s death.

Restricting statutory bereavement leave to parents is a long way short of the right to bereavement leave for all employees that campaigners wanted, but once the initial step has been taken with respect to parents in 2020, it’s entirely possible that the right will be extended, as was the case with the right to request flexible working which initially only applied to parents, but was latterly extended to include everyone who has at least 26 weeks service.

So what should employers do now?  Well there’s no need to do anything until the Bill becomes law but employers should start thinking about their own approach – will they just meet the statutory minimum, or offer an extension beyond the death of a child, perhaps along the lines of the 3 days I mentioned earlier for the loss of a relative or partner. Will they pay statutory bereavement leave at the statutory rate, or at normal pay, and for other bereavement leave (if they choose to introduce it) will this be unpaid or paid, and if paid, at what rate? Those employers wishing to enhance their reputation as a good employer will no doubt err on the generous side, others will stick to the statutory minimum.

myHRdept will work with employers to update policies and handbooks in due course and to discuss the options available on this topic, and indeed in connection with other benefits and statutory rights.

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