Parental bereavement leave to become law in April 2020

The government has confirmed that the new statutory right to time off for bereaved parents will start on 6 April 2020.

Previously enacted into law back in 2018, parental bereavement leave, also known as Jack’s Law, gives parents the right to take two weeks of leave when they suffer the loss of a child. It came about following campaigning from Lucy Herd, who lost her son Jack in 2010 and was shocked at the little time her partner was allowed off work in which to grieve. After a separate consultation by the government, which looked into how providing additional leave to parents in this situation would work in practice, we now have finally been given an introduction date.  

As previously understood, employees will be able to take two weeks of leave when they suffer either a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy or the death of a child under the age of 18. A day-one right, employees will be able to take these weeks either as one single block of leave, one single block of two weeks’ leave, or two separate blocks of one week of leave. Unlike in the original legislation, it is also confirmed that they will have 56 weeks following the death of their child in which to take this leave. This is significantly more than the 56 days previously outlined within the legislation and has been lengthened to reflect the likelihood of a long-term grieving process.

There are still a number of key areas that are to be confirmed in following regulations, which are currently expected soon. A key area for which further clarity is awaited is eligibility, however we understand that this right will apply to employees who fall into the following categories in relation to the child:

  • birth parents
  • adoptive parents
  • legal guardians
  • those with court orders providing daily care responsibilities
  • foster parents (although it may not include emergency foster care)
  • kinship carers.

It has, however, been confirmed that employees with 26 weeks’ or more continuous service with an organisation will be eligible for payment of statutory bereavement leave pay. It is expected that this will be paid at the same rates as other family related leave, such as maternity and paternity leave. As of 5 April 2020, these rates are set to rise to £151.20.

It should be noted that this leave is not expected to replace any existing provisions in place to assist employees. For example, employees will retain the right to take time off for dependants to deal with emergencies involving dependants such as children, which can include the sudden death of a child. Furthermore, if employees do wish to have time away from work immediately following the death as bereavement leave, they will have an initial period of which no formal notice is required, although they will need to tell the organisation informally. The length of this period is also yet to be confirmed.

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