In September, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 received Royal Assent (as we reported here). The Act really just enables the government to introduce regulations and it has now published its response to the consultation, which took place earlier this year, giving some indication of how the new scheme will operate when it comes into force in, we expect, 2020.
The consultation sought views on key issues such as the definition of a bereaved parent, how and when parental bereavement leave should be able to be taken, what notice should be given to take such leave and what evidence of eligibility should be required.
The government's response follows almost 1,500 respondents giving their views. From the response, we can glean the following key points:
- Eligibility for leave will be centred on the notion of a primary carer, who has a relationship with the child which is parental in nature. As well as legal parents, this means legal guardians and those with court orders giving them day-to-day responsibility for caring for the child will be eligible. Foster parents and kinship carers may also meet the eligibility criteria if in fact they are acting as a child's parent.
- Bereaved parents will be able to take the two-week entitlement as a single block of two weeks or two separate one-week blocks. This mirrors the approach to statutory paternity leave.
- A bereaved parent will receive statutory bereavement pay, if eligible, for each week of leave they take (statutory payments can only be made for whole weeks).
- The window for taking bereavement leave and pay will be 56 weeks from the date of the child's death. This will provide bereaved parents with necessary flexibility.
- No advance notice will be required if a bereaved parent wants to take leave soon after the child's death. During an initial period of a few weeks (exact length still to be determined), the parent will simply have to tell their employer of the reason for their absence and that they intend to take parental bereavement leave. Formal notification will not be necessary.
- After this initial period, the government proposes that a bereaved parent will have to give one week's notice of their intention to take bereavement leave.
- Respondents to the consultation felt that the approach to evidence of entitlement to bereavement leave and pay should mirror existing family leave entitlements. Employees will need to submit a written declaration confirming they are entitled to statutory bereavement pay, regardless of whether his/her employer asks for it. However, the employee will only have to provide a written declaration confirming entitlement to the leave itself if his/her employer requests it.
We expect draft regulations to be published next year, at which point the finer details will become clear.
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