The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act, which received Royal Assent earlier this year, is expected to come into force in 2020.
The Act introduces a new statutory right to time off work for employed parents following the loss of a child, enabling the parent to grieve and easing recovery. Those who lose a child who was under the age of 18 can expect a minimum of two weeks leave.
Whilst the announcement of the Act was met with a positive response, some were quick to question the Act’s application and the stringent requirements that might be placed on both parents and employers. In response to such concerns the government undertook public consultation earlier this year. This week they published their findings and we have outlined below the key changes arising from the consultation.
Who is a ‘bereaved parent’?
The Act’s original focus was on ‘parents’ only. However, recognising that this is not a simple definition, the focus will now be on the those who have a relationship with a child that could be seen as ‘parental in nature’ i.e. adopters, foster parents, guardians, kinship carers and others which, prior to this consultation, might have been excluded.
How and when can leave be taken?
Before the consultation, the two week minimum leave had to be taken within the 8 week period following the death of the child (either as a single block or two separate blocks). Identifying that grief is wholly individualistic, this has now been extended to a period of 56 weeks following the death of the child. This allows for greater flexibility and the opportunity to take leave at the first anniversary of the child’s death if they so choose.
What notice period is required?
The need for immediacy in such emotionally delicate situations has the potential to lead to employee/employer complications. Following the consultation, the government has sought to accommodate the often unpredictable nature of death and a two tiered approach has been mooted and likely to be introduced, although further details on this are yet to be confirmed. If leave is taken very soon after death an informal form of notification is likely to be seen as sufficient. However, when taken after the initial period, a notice period of around one week will be the minimum requirement.
What evidence should be provided?
This is perhaps the most emotionally testing of the questions. As above, the government has recognised that it is often not simple or practical to produce evidence of the death of a child, especially taking into account the emotional stresses and burden. At the time of writing this, the government is hoping to mirror the process followed in other forms of family leave, in that the employer can, if they choose, request a written declaration. However, no such declaration will be required of the parent if taking time to grieve in the immediate period following the death of their child.
Further information on the consultation and the government’s response can be found here.