Under a new UK government rule, also known as “Jack’s Law”, working bereaved parents, who are eligible, will be entitled to two weeks of paid leave from April 2020. As it stands, the UK will be the only country to have this legal right.
What is the law on bereavement leave for employees?
Currently there is no automatic right to bereavement leave in the UK. Employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to care for a dependant, such as organising emergency care or making funeral arrangements. Additional time off is typically recorded as holiday or sick leave. But this will change from 6 April with two weeks’ leave becoming the statutory minimum for bereaved parents.
Who will be entitled to parental bereavement leave?
The new leave allowance will be a day one right for employed biological parents, adoptive parents, guardians, foster parents and primary carers who lose a child under the age of 18 or who suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
However, to be eligible for statutory paid parental bereavement leave, bereaved parents must meet criteria, which includes at least 26 weeks of continuous employment.
Step by step, flexible working practices are becoming more ingrained in society. And with that in mind it should be noted that the two weeks of paid statutory parental bereavement leave (SPBL) can either be taken in one go or in two separate blocks of one week within the first year after the child’s death.
Support for grieving parents
Jack’s Law, which has been named after the death of Jack Herd, son of Lucy Herd who campaigned tirelessly for more support for bereaved parents, is a welcome change. It has been described by business secretary Andrea Leadsom as “a minimum, and something to build on”.
Losing a child is a devastating and isolating experience. The new paid parental bereavement leave provides immediate support to those who are struggling to cope or continue with day-to-day life. Grieving parents may suffer from depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And so it’s important for employers to seek advice on how best to support employees through this difficult time.
Workplace well-being initiatives such as an employee assistance programme (EAP) can give employees access to qualified guidance or counselling on sensitive subjects. Signposting further support or charities that know the topic well, such as Sands for bereaved parents, can provide additional help for employees and advice for employers. The HR Dept were proud to support Sands at our national conference in 2019.
Your legal obligation
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their employees. Additionally, employees work better when they are physically and mentally feeling well.
If you would like further advice on how to manage a bereaved parent, or have questions about the new legislation coming in April, contact us today.