Government publishes parental bereavement leave bill

PhotoAlto/REX/Shutterstock
PhotoAlto/REX/Shutterstock

The Government has today published a bill that will offer two weeks’ paid leave for bereaved parents.

The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill, introduced by Kevin Hollinrake MP, will give a day-one right to parental bereavement leave for any employed parent who loses a child under the age of 18.

Employees with a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous service will be eligible for statutory parental bereavement pay, for which employers will be able to reclaim some or all of the cost.

The bill will receive a second reading in Parliament on 20 October, with the aim of it becoming law in 2020. The proposals first emerged in the Conservative party manifesto earlier this year.

There is currently no legal requirement for employers to provide paid time off for grieving parents, although many do. Under the Employment Rights Act, employees have a day-one right to take a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, which could include making arrangements following the death of a dependant.

Announcing the new bill’s publication, Margot James, business minister, said: “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.”

Hollinrake added: “Sadly I have had constituents who have gone through this dreadful experience and while some parents prefer to carry on working, others need time off.

“This new law will give employed parents a legal right to two weeks’ paid leave, giving them that all-important time and space away from work to grieve at such a desperately sad time.”

Charities supporting bereaved parents welcomed the proposed legislation. Francine Bates, CEO of The Lullaby Trust, said: “Losing a child is one of the most devastating experiences that a parent can go through and it is vitally important that they are supported by their employer and not made to return to work before they are ready.

“We know many bereaved parents who have campaigned tirelessly for paid compassionate leave after the death of a child and are very pleased to see that the UK is now leading the way in supporting parents who need time away from work to grieve for their child.”

Debbie Kerslake, chief executive of Cruse Bereavement Care, added: “It is vital that at such a distressing time those who are bereaved can take time away from work.”

Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD, said: “Our research shows many employers already offer their staff paid bereavement leave. This new law will build on this so all bereaved parents of children under the age of 18 will have the reassurance of knowing they don’t have to worry about work while they grieve for loved ones in the immediate aftermath of such a tragedy.

“Employers that want to support staff who have suffered a bereavement also need to consider how grief affects people in the longer term, recognising that losing a loved one creates huge turmoil in people’s lives.

“Providing flexible working and access to counselling or employee assistance programmes, and ensuring managers are understanding and supportive, can help people to adapt or manage their work when they are struggling to cope. This is relevant in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy as well as around difficult times of the year or events that might bring painful reminders of their loss.”

The Bill was first introduced to parliament in July.

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