The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 was given royal assent on 13 September 2018, having started out in July 2017 as a Private Member's Bill subsequently supported by the government.
The Act will offer, as a day one right, two weeks' leave to any employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18 or who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Employees will also be eligible for statutory bereavement pay if they meet certain criteria, including that they have been employed for at least 26 weeks, ending in the week of the child's death, and have given the correct notice.
Bereavement leave must be taken within 56 days of the child's death and parents who have lost more than one child will be entitled to take leave in respect of each child.
The Act provides that regulations will be made in due course, setting out how parental bereavement leave and pay will be taken, and the eligibility criteria. This will include details of notice requirements, whether leave can be taken in separate blocks and whether employees who are not the biological parent of a child (but who have been significantly involved in caring for the child, such as step-parents) will also qualify for leave and pay.
The rights provided by the Act are expected to come into force in April 2020, but this will be confirmed by the regulations.
Under current legislation, employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to make arrangements following the death of a dependant. However, the cases on this limit the amount of time off to one or two days at most, save in exceptional circumstances. The change in law is therefore the first time in the UK that specific bereavement leave has been made both a legal right for up to two weeks and paid.
Employers may already have in place a policy on bereavement. Acas has published a guide to managing bereavement in the workplace, which is available at http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4977
After the regulations have been published, employers should consider reviewing any existing policy or putting one in place, and should ensure that managers and HR are trained on the new rules.
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