Bereavement leave: greater rights for parents sought
Author: Michael Briggs
Applies to: England, Wales and Scotland
The Parental Bereavement Leave (Statutory Entitlement) Bill 2016-17 proposes to allow parents a statutory right to two weeks of paid leave after suffering the loss of a child.
The Parental Bereavement Leave (Statutory Entitlement) Bill 2016-17 (the Bill) was put before the House of Commons on 6 September 2016, and will receive its second reading on 28 October. This Bill is a Private Members Bill and follows earlier (and unsuccessful) calls in 2013 and 2014 for the introduction of specific statutory rights for bereavement leave.
Currently, employees who have suffered a bereavement can only rely on the existing statutory right to take a 'reasonable' period of time off to deal with an emergency, such as a bereavement involving a dependent, or an employer's existing policy in this area - if they have one.
If the new law is passed, the Bill will amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to allow parents a statutory right to two weeks paid leave after suffering the loss of a child. It is expected that pay would be at a statutory rate. However, Private Members Bills often do not make it onto the statute books so it is by no means certain that this one will pass.
Best practice guidance
For parents, the loss of a child will be devastating and employers need to recognise that the whole family will be affected: every bereavement and the impact of it will be different for different employees.
Employers, if they haven't done so already, should consider putting in place a specific bereavement policy in order to manage this difficult issue, and ensure that managers and HR teams are trained to be able to deal with sensitive matters in a compassionate manner.
Policies should include details about:
- the notification of absence and the reason for this
- the need to remain in contact and how to do so
- the need to review any situation specific to the circumstances involved
- any specific entitlement to bereavement leave, e.g the length of leave
- matters concerning the return to work and any adjustments that may be necessary
- matters concerning paid time off (if any)
- any employee support that is available
ACAS has also provided guidance in the area of bereavement in the workplace.
Further guidance on the right to emergency time off work can be found here.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.