January 2020 - Compassionate Leave: bereaved parents

Compassionate Leave: bereaved parents

A new right to two weeks of parental bereavement leave, in many cases to paid leave, will come into force on 6 April 2020, making the UK one of the very few countries to offer such support and the first to offer a full 2 weeks leave.

Who is entitled to parental bereavement leave? Parents and primary carers who have suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18 or who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks or more of pregnancy are entitled to this leave, from day one of their employment.

Who is entitled to paid parental bereavement leave? Parents and primary carers who have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks before the child’s death. The allowance will be in line with statutory rates for maternity, paternity and adoption leave. Small employers will be able to recover all statutory parental bereavement pay, while larger organisations will be able to reclaim almost all of it.

Who are ‘Primary carers’? This can include adopters, foster parents, guardians and those classed as ‘kinship carers’, who may be close relatives or family friends that have assumed responsibility for looking after a child in the absence of parents.

Taking this leave: This leave can be taken either as one block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week each. It must be taken within 56 weeks of the date of the child’s death. Notice requirements for taking the leave will be flexible, so it can be taken at short notice.

Other leave that may also apply: Female employees who suffer a still birth after 24 weeks or lose a child after it is born will also still be entitled to what remains of their statutory maternity leave and pay.

Proof of bereavement: Employers can ask for proof of the bereavement but will not be entitled to insist on seeing a copy of the child’s death certificate. Don’t forget that, under the Data Protection legislation, the bereavement and related issues will be special category data that should not be shared with employees’ colleagues without their knowledge and explicit consent.

Other possible considerations:

• As with any other employee bereavements, be aware that different religions have their own bereavement traditions and funeral rites and try to accommodate these as far as is possible. Refusing to allow an employee to observe their beliefs and customs could amount to religious discrimination
• People recover at different rates, some may need longer leave some will find it useful to return to work earlier. Be alert to employees who may experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Be as flexible as possible, seek medical advice if necessary and remember that these conditions are disabilities and you should always see if you can make reasonable adjustments to help the employee back to work.