From 6 April 2020, parents will be able to take up to two weeks bereavement leave to help them cope with the death of a child.
To avoid you having to read the complicated Regulations we explain the detail.
Is bereavement leave only available to parents?
No. The right applies to biological parents (and their partners), adoptive parents, and, in some cases to other adults such as foster parents and family members who care for the child in their own home in the absence of the child's parents. Anyone with parental responsibility for the child will also be covered.
Do employees need to have worked for their employer for a certain amount of time to qualify?
No. The right to take bereavement leave is a 'day one' right. However, parents must have worked for at least 26 weeks' to receive statutory bereavement pay.
Can it be taken after the death of any child?
Unfortunately not. It only applies to children who are stillborn (after 24 weeks) and those under 18 years old who die on or after 6 April 2020.
How much leave can grieving parents take?
Qualifying parents can take up to two weeks leave each. A parent can choose to take a week's leave and then return to work and take another week at a later time, up to 56 weeks from the date of the child's death. This gives parents the option of taking paid leave at difficult times, such as the first anniversary of the death.
If more than one child dies, parents can take up to two weeks leave for each child.
What information do employees have to give to their employers?
Anyone wishing to take bereavement leave must tell their employer the date their child died, when they want their leave to start and the amount of time they wish to take off (ie one or two weeks). The notice requirements are deliberately flexible so that parents can take time off at short notice.
Parents entitled to paid leave have to give their employers written notice within 28 days of taking the first period of leave stating the date of the child's death and confirming they meet the requirements to receive paid leave. Please note: parents can't receive paid leave if they are receiving statutory sick pay.
Employer's can't request a copy of the child's death certificate.
Can employees change the dates they wish to take leave?
Parents can't cancel any week of parental bereavement leave they've already started but can change the date for the second week by giving notice.
Can both parents take bereavement leave?
Yes, if they meet the qualifying conditions both parents can take up to two weeks leave each.
What is the rate of statutory bereavement pay?
This is set at the same rate as other statutory family related payments. From 6 April 2020, the rate will be £151.20 or 90% of their weekly earnings if lower.
Is there anything else employers need to be aware of?
Yes. Employees taking bereavement leave shouldn't suffer any disadvantage by doing so. Their terms and conditions of employment continue (except for pay) and they should return to the job they left.
They can claim unfair dismissal if they are dismissed because they have taken or wish to take bereavement leave and, in line with other family related rights, they don't need two years' service.
What if parents need more time off?
Losing a child must be devastating and it's difficult to imagine ever being able to function again. Whilst two weeks is better than nothing, many parents will need longer than that. Ian Bainbridge shares his tragic story below and says that he was a "complete mess for four to six weeks".
This new right has also been referred to as 'Jack's Law' following the campaign started by Lucy Herd after her son Jack drowned aged 23 months in 2010. She found that some parents weren't able to take any paid leave - and had to use their holiday allowance or returned to work before they were emotionally and physically ready.
Employers should try and be flexible and, where possible, offer additional leave (whether paid or unpaid) to help them cope.
Women who lose a child after 24 weeks pregnancy can take maternity leave and maternity leave doesn't automatically come to an end if the child dies.
Need more information?
The Regulations are quite tricky to understand. If you're not sure if your employee qualifies for leave, please speak to our partner Jenny Arrowsmith.
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When Ian Bainbridge's son Ellis was stillborn after 34 weeks, he thought he would at least have time to grieve. The tragedy was compounded because negligent medical staff had failed to spot that his partner Lisa was pregnant in the first place. As a result, she nearly died in childbirth. But he ended up having to take a day's annual leave just to attend his son's funeral. Otherwise, there was no respite at all from his job. "I went to work a complete mess for the next four to six weeks," he told the BBC. Now he welcomes the fact that in future, parents who lose a child will receive two weeks' paid bereavement leave under new government rules. "Two weeks isn't much, but looking back on my experience, it would have been a breathing space," he says.