Currently, when an employee suffers a bereavement the only statutory right is to unpaid time off for dependents, which is limited to ‘reasonable’ time off for emergencies relating to dependents and making arrangements following a death. As I have written about previously here, although most employers do offer some form of compassionate leave, it is very variable, and many people have believed for some time that the law needed to be updated.
On 13 October the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill 2017 was published. As its name suggests, it applies only to bereavements where a parent loses a child. It is a Private Members’ Bill, but is backed by the Government (it was one of the Conservative manifesto commitments). Here are the key facts:
1. A ‘day one’ right
The new right will apply to all employees regardless of their length of service (but as it is an ‘employee’ right, it will not apply to workers).
2. Two weeks’ leave
If an employee’s child (under the age of 18) dies, then they will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory bereavement leave. This will include situations where a baby is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
If more than one child has died, then the parent will be entitled to take two weeks leave for each child. The leave must be taken within 56 days of the child’s death.
3. Statutory pay – dependent on length of service
For employees who have 26 weeks’ service at the date of the child’s death and whose earnings are above the ‘lower earnings limit’, there will be an entitlement to statutory parental bereavement pay.
The rate of statutory parental bereavement pay will be the ‘prescribed rate’ or 90% of the employee’s earnings, whichever is the lower. This is similar to the way that statutory paternity pay works. Although the ‘prescribed rate’ has not yet been set, it is likely to be the same as the statutory rate for paternity pay (and the majority of maternity and adoption pay), which is currently £140.98 per week.
As with the other forms of statutory pay, small employers will be able to recover all of the statutory parental bereavement pay, and larger employers will be able to recover most of it.
4. Likely to come into force in 2020
The Bill is expected to become law in 2020, so all employers need to be aware that it is on the horizon. I would expect that it may take effect from 6 April 2020, as this is the usual date when rights of this type would start, however we will of course update you when there is any further news on this.
5. The future
If the new right is considered successful then it could potentially be extended to other forms of bereavement. However, obviously parental bereavement affects (fortunately) a relatively small number of employees each year, so any widening of the scope would need to clearly define which bereavements would qualify and how much time off employees should be given.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or firstname.lastname@example.org).