As of 6th April 2020, new laws will come into force giving employees the right to both parental bereavement leave and pay. The law, better known to the public as ‘Jack’s Law’, will grant employees who have lost a child under the age of 18 or have suffered a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy the right to 2 weeks’ statutory leave and statutory parental bereavement pay.
There is no minimum length of service needed in order for an employee to take the statutory leave. The relevant employee need only be the parent of a deceased child. The term parent includes: an adoptive parent, a prospective adopter, an intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement, a parent “in fact” (someone looking after the child in that person’s own home for the last four weeks), or that person’s partner. Paid carers are not included within the definition. Bereaved parents may take leave for 1 week, for 2 consecutive weeks or for 2 separate weeks and this leave may start on any day of the week.
It has been decided that the leave may be taken anytime in the first 56 weeks after the death or stillbirth of the child. The reasoning behind this seems to be to allow bereaved parents to take one of the weeks off around the anniversary of their child’s death if they so wish.
It is important for employers to note that employees who chose to exercise their right to bereavement leave are protected from dismissal or detriment for doing so.
The criteria which need to be fulfilled in order for an employee to qualify for statutory parental bereavement pay are slightly more stringent. Apart from meeting the definition of “parent”, as set out above, the employee must also have at least six months’ continuous service and must have normal weekly earnings of at least the lower earnings limit (currently £118 per week). Provided they meet the eligibility criteria, employees will receive pay at the same rate as statutory paternity pay or shared parental pay. As with parental bereavement leave, parental bereavement pay is available either for one or two weeks and can start on any day of the week. Employees should note however that it is not payable during a week in which they carry out any work for their employer.
Where more than one child of an employee has died or been stillborn, the employee is entitled to a separate period of leave and, subject to meeting the qualification criteria above, a separate right to pay in respect of each child.
For further details of the new law, please refer to the Draft Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 and Draft Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020.