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17 October 2018
On 13 September 2018 the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill received royal assent to become the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018. The act entitles employed parents who have lost a child to take statutory paid leave to allow them time to grieve. The new rights are expected to come into force in 2020.
It has been estimated that one in 10 employees are likely to be affected by bereavement at any one time. The death of a child can have a devastating effect on a parent's physical and emotional wellbeing. Well-managed, sensitive support from an employer can make a huge difference to the affected employee's experience and their successful return to work. A 2016 survey commissioned by the charity Child Bereavement UK revealed that less than one-third of UK adults who were working at the time of their bereavement said that they had felt supported by their employer; therefore, there is evidently scope for improvement in management practice in this area.
There is no legal requirement in the United Kingdom for employers to provide paid leave for grieving parents. Under Section 57(A) of the Employment Rights Acts 1996, employees have a so-called 'day one' right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency, including the death of a dependant. There is no definition of 'reasonable' for these purposes and this will depend on the circumstances. Therefore, disagreements between the employee and employer regarding the appropriate length of leave can arise.
Although the new legislation began as a private member's bill, it was supported by the government, which stated that:
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 which so many have campaigned for.
Regulations under the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act will be required to set out the details of these new rights. However, the act provides for the following:
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has produced guidance on managing bereavement in the workplace, including good practice suggestions for managing an affected employee's absence and their return to work. It emphasises that advance planning and training will help to ensure that managers are better prepared to deal with what can be a difficult issue to negotiate. Further useful recommendations include as follows:
For further information on this topic please contact Lucy Lewis at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000) or email (email@example.com). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.
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