On 13 September 2018 the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill received Royal Assent. This Act will create a new legal obligation on employers to provide parental bereavement pay to parents. When the Act comes into force, it will allow parents who are dealing with the death of a child under the age of 18 to two weeks statutory paid leave if they wish to utilise this.
Similarly to maternity and paternity leave, the employee must have a minimum continuous employment period of 26 weeks and is entitled to the same employment protections during their period of leave. The Act will also include a child stillborn after twenty-four weeks of pregnancy. It is estimated that the Act will become Law early 2020.
Kelly Tolhurst, the business minister, said: “This law makes parental bereavement leave a legal right for the first time in the UK’s history. Losing a child is an unimaginable trauma. I am delighted we have reached this important milestone that so many have campaigned for.”
Employers should ensure that a record of communications regarding the employee’s health are well documented and always conducted in a confidential and sensitive way. Keeping records of meetings and copies of any letters sent out to the employee should be documented and stored confidentially in the employee’s file.
Whilst the Law will come into force in early 2020 employers should not ignore this issue. A recent survey by neonatal death charity Sands of 2,769 respondents including 89% bereaved parents, 6% bereaved grandparents and 5% other family members found that 49% of respondents were not approached by their employer to discuss entitlements to pay and leave following the death of their baby. Many employers fear saying the wrong thing or upsetting their employee further. For grieving parents returning to work may be a difficult step, employers should do all that they can to ensure that parents know their rights, feel supported within the workplace and able to speak to their colleagues should they wish to. There are multiple support agencies which we can help to signpost employees to and we can support the business in any correspondence to the employee or meetings held.
If we can help you with this or any other HR issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our HR Team at HR Services Scotland Ltd on 0800 652 2610.