What is the new Paternal Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act?

Our Risk Management HR Advisor, Richard Naylor, talks about the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act and what impact this could have on your club.

Employers often ask what their responsibility is when it comes to bereavement leave.

As it currently stands, there is no legal obligation for employers to provide paid time off for bereavement, despite 1 in 10 employees being affected by the death of a loved one at any given point.  

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees currently have the legal right to take ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with an emergency. This falls under the statutory right to emergency time off for dependants. This entitlement is only for unpaid leave and does not allow for a longer period off due to grief. 

With effect from April 2020 the new Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act comes into force.

Who is entitled to paid Parental Bereavement Leave?

Parents and primary carers who have suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18.

What are employees entitled to?

The new Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act will give all employed parents / carers who have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks prior to the child’s death and have received pay above the lower earnings limit for the previous eight weeks, a day-one right to 2 weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. In this instance, female employees will still be entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and/or pay, as will a mother who loses a child after it is born. Employed parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

Workers who have not been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks are entitled to two weeks’ unpaid leave.

The two weeks’ leave can be taken either in one block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each. It must be taken within 56 weeks of the date of the child’s death. This is to allow for time to be taken off for difficult events such as birthdays or anniversaries.

Notice requirements for taking the leave will be flexible, so it can be taken at short notice.

Employees who have sufficient service and earnings will be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay.

If an employee loses more than one child, they will be entitled to take a separate period of leave for each child.

What else should HR be aware of?

Under the new legislation, employers will not be entitled to request a copy of the child’s death certificate as evidence of an employee’s right to the entitlement.

Large organisations will be able to reclaim almost all the statutory bereavement pay, whilst small employers will be able to recover all of it. 

Dependant on the diversity of the workforce, employers may need to be mindful that different religions have their own bereavement traditions and funeral rites that must be followed. Any refusal to allow an employee to observe their beliefs and customs could amount to a tribunal claim for religious discrimination.

Under the Data Protection Act 2018, employees have the right to keep details of their child’s death confidential. Speak to the employee, what information are they comfortable with their colleagues knowing and, above all, ensure that their wishes are respected.

As with any traumatic event there is always the possibility that employees may experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Should this be the case, you must seek medical advice with a view to making reasonable adjustments. 

Managing bereavement in the workplace comes with its challenges. However, you should always remember to treat employees with the same kindness and compassion that you would wish to be treated with.

For further Risk Management and HR advice, contact the NDML team.

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