New law: Employers plan for new employee right to parental bereavement leave
Employers should plan and budget for new rules from 6 April 2020 which say that an employee who is the parent of a child who dies before reaching 18, or who suffers a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, is entitled to parental bereavement leave.
The entitlement applies only to employees (workers and contractors are not entitled to parental bereavement leave), but there is no qualifying period of employment. Two weeks’ leave can be taken. If more than one child has died or is stillborn, the entitlement applies separately in relation to each child.
Bereavement leave should, strictly, be taken in units of one week, so either as one block of two weeks, as two separate periods of a week each or, as one single week if an employee does not want to take two weeks. However, employers may choose to be flexible and offer leave in single days.
Leave must be taken within 56 weeks of the death or stillbirth. For example, parents could wait until the anniversary of their child’s death to take it.
There is a wide definition of parent, including adoptive and surrogate parents, guardians and foster parents. A parent’s ‘partner’, living with the child and its parent at the time of the death or stillbirth, is also entitled to parental bereavement leave.
There are rules regarding the notice to be given to employers of:
the death or stillbirth;
when the employee wishes to take parental bereavement leave; and
for what period.
If an employee has been employed for at least 26 weeks before the child’s death or stillbirth, they can also claim parental bereavement pay, provided they have not worked for a seven day period and their earnings are more than a specified minimum. Bereavement pay is calculated in the same way as maternity pay.
There are different and more stringent rules regarding notice to be given by an employee claiming parental bereavement pay. Many employers are likely to provide standard forms to make things easier for employees.
Every employer can recover 92 per cent of any parental bereavement pay by offsetting it against PAYE and NICs. Small employers may be able to recover 103 per cent of it.
Employers will need to understand the interaction between parental bereavement leave and other entitlements, such as maternity and paternity leave and pay, the right to take reasonable (unpaid) time off to make funeral arrangements and register a death, etc.
Employers should plan and budget for the new rules, review their policies and procedures, and consider providing standard forms that employees can use to give the appropriate notices.
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