Legislation Finalised for Paid Parental Bereavement Leave
The new right to paid parental bereavement leave will come into force from 6 April 2020. The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act (September 2018), the foundation of the legislation, is now supplemented by two sets of regulations dealing with its operation. These are the Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 and the Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020.
The operation of the legislation and Regulations is disconcertingly complex, but essentially provides for:
- Two weeks’ parental bereavement leave (PBL) for working parents upon the death of a child aged under 18, or a still birth (from 24 weeks of pregnancy). There is no length of service requirement in relation to the leave.
- Statutory parental bereavement pay (SPBP) on the taking of PBL paid at the lower of £151.20 per week or 90 per cent of normal weekly earnings, subject to the qualifying criteria being met.
Employers will administer SPBP in the same way as statutory payments for maternity pay, for example.
There is no qualifying requirement for PBL, it is a day one right. The position is different for SPBP for which employees must have been continuously employed for 26 weeks prior to the death of their child, and to have fulfilled certain earning requirements. We therefore have the situation where employees may be entitled to take PBL, but this will be unpaid unless certain criteria are met.
The leave entitlement is two weeks’ PBL with the minimum period of leave being one week. In the event of a loss of more than one child, the entitlement is two weeks’ PBL in respect of each child, including where children die at the same time.
PBL can be taken at any time within the period of 56 weeks beginning with the date on which the child died. This allows employees to take time off around difficult periods, for example, the child’s birthday.
Employees wishing to take their entitlement are subject to complex notice requirements. However, in practical terms, one might expect the employer to bring the entitlement to the attention of an employee and to assist them in every way possible. Part of this might be through the development of a policy to cover bereavement leave which in addition can cover leave on the death of other relatives. Many employers currently have compassionate leave policies which may in some respects be more beneficial than the legislation. If this is the case, employers should still ensure that they satisfy the requirements of the legislation and new regulations.
The employee is protected during a period of PBL, and the right to return to work is dealt with, which might be particularly relevant where PBL is combined with another period of statutory parental leave, such as maternity leave.
The Government has promised some guidance ahead of 6 April 2020, and ACAS will also publish guidance in its usual way.