Having officially received royal assent in October, the government have since published more details on the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act, outlining several key points that employers need to be aware of. Following a public consultation, the government have now confirmed a number of aspects that were previously undefined, including rules around eligibility, pay and notice requirements.
Whilst it was clear that biological parents were always going to be eligible, it has now been revealed that most foster parents and legal guardians will also be entitled to take two weeks’ leave when their child, or the child they are caring for, dies under the age of 18. In addition, close relatives or family friends will also qualify when they are responsible for the care of a child in the parents’ absence.
In order to qualify for pay during this leave, individuals will need to have 26 weeks’ continuous service with their current employer at the time of the death. Qualifying employees are likely to receive pay at the same rate as statutory maternity pay though this is yet to be confirmed. Those who do not meet the 26-week threshold will be entitled to unpaid leave.
As well as the above, it has also been confirmed that employees will have 56 weeks from the date of the death to take the leave, which can be taken as a single block or as two separate weeks. This is in response to public feedback which suggested the 1-year anniversary of the bereavement was a particularly difficult time and that it would be important to have the flexibility to take a portion of the leave during this period.
The government also confirmed that employees will not have to provide their employer with notice of taking leave, or evidence of the bereavement, if they plan to take it in the initial period after the death. However, the response failed to elaborate on how long the ‘initial period’ will last for and this information is expected to be provided, along with other finer details, at a later date.
Despite these developments, employers are reminded currently there is no requirement to offer staff an extended amount of paid time off following the death of a child. Instead they are only obliged to facilitate staff with time off for dependants, which consists of a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with an emergency situation. Employers can of course choose to offer bereavement or compassionate leave as part of a competitive employee benefits package, however this is not a statutory requirement.
Whilst this new right will not be implemented until at least 2020, we now know a good deal of information about the practicalities of Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay. With this being said, employers are advised to keep up to date with any further developments, including the accompanying regulations that are expected in due course, and make sure that HR personnel are appropriately informed.