Under a proposed new law, parents who have lost a child under the age of 18 are to have a statutory right to parental bereavement leave and pay.

The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill has now been published and could come into effect in 2020.

What rights does the law provide at present?

As the law currently stands, there are no specific statutory rights for workers to take leave for compassionate or bereavement reasons, but there is an expectation that employers will be flexible in such circumstances.

Under the Employment Rights Act, all employees, irrespective of their length of service, are entitled to the right to take unpaid time off to deal with emergencies and unforeseen matters involving a dependant, for example, following the death of a child. They are entitled to a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off. This could be a few hours or one or two days, depending on the individual circumstances.

To find out more, read our guidance on the current legal position on bereavement and how to manage bereavement leave requests.

What does the Bill seek to introduce?

Under the Bill, bereaved parents are entitled to at least two weeks of leave, which will be a right from day one of employment. Those parents who have been employed with their employer for 26 continuous weeks will also be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay.

To alleviate the financial burden on employers, smaller businesses will be able to claim back all the pay from the government and larger business will be able to reclaim most of it.

Business Minister, Margot James, commented ‘We want parents to feel properly supported by their employer when they go through the deeply distressing ordeal of losing a child. That’s why Government is backing this bill which goes significantly further than most other countries in providing this kind of workplace right for employees.’

What happens next?

The Bill was first presented to Parliament on 19th July and will have its second reading on 20th October. It is expected that it will be made law in 2020.

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