Parents who suffer stillbirth or the loss of a child will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory parental bereavement leave (SPBL) from 6 April 2020, the government confirmed today, while those with six months’ service will also be entitled to statutory pay (SPBP).
In the immediate aftermath of a child dying, parents have to cope with their own loss, the grief of their wider family, including other children, as well as a vast amount of administrative paperwork and other arrangements” – Lucy Herd
The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations are known as Jack’s Law in memory of Jack Herd whose mother Lucy campaigned for mandatory leave for grieving parents.
The Act gives a statutory right to a minimum of two weeks’ leave for all employed parents if they lose a child under the age of 18, or have a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy. The right will exist irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer.
Business secretary Andrea Leadsom laid the regulations in Parliament today, allowing parents to take the leave as either a single block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each taken at different times during 56 weeks after their child’s death. This means they can match their leave to the times they need it most, including the first anniversary of the child’s death.
Lucy Herd’s young son Jack drowned in the garden pond in 2010. After his death she discovered his father could only take three days’ paid leave – any additional time off had be taken as sick leave or holiday. Since then, she has campaigned for better rights for bereaved parents.
Herd said: “In the immediate aftermath of a child dying, parents have to cope with their own loss, the grief of their wider family, including other children, as well as a vast amount of administrative paperwork and other arrangements. A sudden or accidental death may require a post-mortem or inquest; there is a funeral to arrange; and there are many other organisations to contact, from schools to benefit offices.”
XpertHR resources on SPBL
Leadsom said: “There can be few worse experiences in life than the loss of a child and I am proud that this government is delivering ‘Jack’s Law’, making us the first country in the world to do so.
“When it takes effect, Jack’s Law will be a fitting testament to the tireless efforts of Lucy Herd, alongside many charities, to give parents greater support.”
Kevin Hollinrake, the MP who sponsored the original private member’s bill, said: “Losing a child is every parent’s worst fear, but no-one could ever fully understand the utter devastation of such a loss. Whilst most employers are compassionate and generous in these situations, some are not, so I was delighted to be able to help make leave for bereaved parents a legal right.”
Around 7,500 child deaths or stillbirths occur in the UK every year. The government estimates that this new entitlement will help to support around 10,000 parents a year.
Research by XpertHR in 2018 suggested that, for the closest relationships, the median paid bereavement leave entitlement was five days, meaning many employers will need to update their policies to comply with the law.
Ed Stacey, head of legal at PwC, said: “While this policy will directly impact a relatively small number of the UK workforce, it will be hugely appreciated by those who suffer the terrible loss of a child.
“Many employers already provide bereavement leave for a range of circumstances but it is certainly not standard practice and is often informal. Providing certainty at a time of immense personal tragedy can therefore only be seen as a very positive change to UK employment law.”
Parents with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and weekly average earnings over the lower earning limit (£118 per week for 2019/20) will also be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay (SPBP), paid at the rate of £148.68 per week (for 2019/20), or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is lower.
Clea Harmer, chief executive of the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, said: “All employers need to ensure they know about this important change in the law and what additional support they can offer to bereaved parents in their workplace, as this is vital time for them in their grieving process.”
As well as birth parents, the entitlement will be available to adults with parental responsibility, for example: adoptive parents, individuals who are fostering to adopt, legal guardians; and many foster parents, although emergency foster care may not be covered.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the “day-one right” is the first of a raft of new employment reforms to make the UK “the best place in the world to work and to start a business”. The parental bereavement law arrives ahead of the government’s new Employment Bill, announced in December, which will introduce carer’s leave and neonatal pay.
Acas chief executive Susan Clews, said: “This new legal right will allow eligible working parents paid time off to help them grieve and will help employers who manage staff that are experiencing the distressing loss of a loved one.
“Acas has existing good practice guidance on managing bereavement at work and we will be revising our advice to incorporate this new legal right.”
Further details of the parental bereavement leave regulations will be covered on Personnel Today when the government publishes its guidance, once the legislation is finalised.