The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill was first published in Parliament back in October 2017 with the proposal of increasing protection for working parents who suffer the loss of a child under the age of 18. In proposing a day one entitlement to a two week period of statutory bereavement leave, the government wish to create a legal structure for bereavement leave for the first time, although restricting it to a prescribed band of employee.
The government have announced an open consultation period to seek public opinion on several aspects of the bill. Following an acknowledgement that family dynamics are often much more diverse in nature, the public have been invited to share their views on whether foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles should be afforded these same protections under the bill.
The government also want opinions on the proposed length of the leave and practical suggestions on how and when the leave should be taken. Whilst recent policies such as Shared Parental Leave have sought to increase flexibility for employees, the government have acknowledged the need for organisations to have a degree of certainty over when and how their employees can take parental bereavement leave.
Another question to be addressed is whether organisations may reasonably expect to be provided with notice prior to the leave, much like they would need to for paternity leave or shared parental leave. Additionally, opinions are being taken on how best to provide evidence of an employee’s right to take parental bereavement leave and pay to enable a balance to be struck between respecting an employee’s privacy and protecting against any fraudulent misuse of these statutory provisions.
Whilst many employees feel the need to rush back to work, allowing a period of time off to grieve is often effective in helping overcome bereavement in the long term. Money pressures often act as an influential push factor forcing employees to return to work before they are ready to do so. As a solution the bill proposes that eligible employees are paid during their bereavement leave at a rate of £145.18 per week, or 90% of their weekly average earnings where that is lower. However, to be considered eligible, parents must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer.
The consultation will run until 8 June 2018.