Posted by Ali Cloak, Partner
The Parental Bereavement Bill – here’s why it’s important
Currently there is no legal requirement for employers in the UK to provide paid leave for grieving parents, but a new bill – currently in parliament – could change that. Here’s what you need to know, and why it’s important.
First introduced by Kevin Hollinrake (MP), the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill will allow parents who have suffered the death of a child to be given paid leave during the immediate period of grief.
All employees currently have the right to take immediate time off for dependents (typically family members) under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This leave is usually used for unforeseen matters and emergencies. However, the period of time allowed is unspecified and there is no statutory right to be paid during this period.
At this time, employers have discretion as to the length of leave to grant a grieving parent. This period is rarely more than five days and, shockingly, in many cases no gratuitous leave is granted at all.
How will this new bill change things?
The Parental Bereavement Leave Bill is a private member’s Bill (fully supported by the Government) intended to create a legal entitlement to paid parental bereavement leave of at least two weeks, for those who have lost a child (under 18 years of age).
If the Bill becomes law, bereaved working parents will receive a statutory bereavement leave payment from their workplace of £140.98 a week (or 90% of the employee’s average earnings, whichever is the lower), which their employers can claim back from the Government.
It is estimated that the annual cost of these payments will amount to between £1.3m and £2m. However, to receive the payment the parent must have 26 weeks’ continuous employment with their employer.
Will Quince, a Conservative MP who sadly experienced a still birth in his own family, has also campaigned passionately to ensure that the new Bill would include support for parents who had experienced a stillbirth.
So, for the purposes of the Bill, a ‘child’ will now include a baby stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy, meaning that parents of a stillborn baby will be entitled to the same period of leave.
What needs to happen before this becomes law?
The Bill has now had its second reading in the House of Commons. It is yet to be approved by the House of Lords before it can receive Royal Assent, when it will become an Act of Parliament and therefore law. It is anticipated that this will occur some time in 2020.
Francine Bates, CEO of The Lullaby Trust says: “We warmly welcome the introduction of this bill. We know many bereaved parents who have campaigned tirelessly for paid compassionate leave after the death of a child. We hope this bill will help parents who have lost their baby suddenly and unexpectedly and need time away from work to grieve for their child.”
We wish the Bill a speedy passage through Parliament as it’s a vital step to support bereaved parents overcome their loss.
A family should not need to deal with any additional concern about work or finances during what will inevitably be one of the most difficult experiences for them.
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