A new parental bereavement law in Britain for loss parents and their right to time off work will come into effect next year. As of April 2020, bereaved parents (and main carers) who are employed will be entitled to two weeks’ leave if their child (or the child they were caring for) dies, so long as the child was under the age of 18 at the time of death.
The law also extends its cover to parents who suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. It’s a huge step in recognising the needs of child loss parents in the immediate aftermath of the death of their child. The new law is called the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 2018 and makes Parental Bereavement Leave a legal right for the first time in UK history.
Whilst it’s true that many employers in the UK already grant compassionate leave (usually under the provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996), and in some cases even paid bereavement leave to employees who have suffered the death of a loved one, up until this new law there’s previously been no legal obligation in the UK on them to do so.
Often, the sad reality is that after the loss of a child, at a time when parents are in shock and suffering acute grief, employers don’t offer any time off or force parents back to work too early. The law as it stands now is that an employer is not legally obliged to grant bereavement leave unless the terms of this are set out in the contract of employment. As of April 2020, this will change.
The new law also makes provision for some financial help. Employed parents will be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria. The new Act of Parliament for this parental bereavement law came about as a result of one mother’s fight to change the law. Lucy Herd, whose toddler son Jack drowned in a garden pond in 2010, was behind the campaign to make it a legal obligation on employers to allow parents time off work following the death of their child.
After the death of their son Jack, her husband was only allowed to take three days off from his engineering job, including one for the funeral. The family could only afford for him to take three weeks unpaid sick leave and holiday. In the aftermath of the tragedy, their marriage broke up.
Her own experience of child loss and how her husband struggled with going back to work, with the consequent negative impact on their marriage, led her to start a campaign. Fighting for a change in the law was a way of honouring her son. She also set up her charity – Jack’s Rainbow – to pay for a holiday home for bereaved families.
Main points of the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 2018 in the United Kingdom:
– Applies to employed parents of a child that dies under the age of 18
– Applies to employed parents who suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy
– Applies to primary carers – not just parents – who will also be entitled to time off work following the death of a child. This includes adopters, foster parents, and guardians, as well as more informal groups such as close relatives or family friends who have taken responsibility for the child’s care in the absence of parents
– Statutory day-one right to a minimum of 2 weeks’ bereavement leave
– Leave can either be taken in one block or two separate blocks of one week. It can be taken within a 56-week window from the child’s death, to allow time for moments such as anniversaries
– Notice of leave requirements will be flexible so leave can be taken without prior notice
– Parents will not need to provide the employer with a death certificate as evidence
– Employed parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria: employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service will be entitled to claim pay for the duration of this leave; those without 26 weeks’ continuous service will still be entitled to take the leave, but this may be unpaid.
– The statutory pay under the Act works in the same way as statutory maternity pay
What effect does this parental bereavement law have on your family or decisions? If you live outside Britain, do you think this law or a form of it should be more widely considered around the world? Why or why not?
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