Bereavement leave and pay

From 2020 employed parents who suffer the death of child under 18 (or a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy) will become entitled to two weeks' paid leave.

The new right is outlined in the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 which Royal Assent on 13 September 2018. The Act is in the nature of enabling legislation because it leaves much of the detail to be specified in future regulations, e.g. notice, protections from dismissal and detriment, and what happens during redundancy. It looks very much as if the right will mirror the current right to two weeks’ paternity leave. A consultation, the results of which are not yet known, covers issues such as the definition of a bereaved parent, how and when leave and pay can be taken, and the notice and evidence requirements.

This will be a Day 1 right - for leave purposes - but to qualify for the pay element, employees will need a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous service (and be earning more than the lower earnings limit). The level of payment hasn’t been set but it's likely that this will be the statutory flat rate used for similar types of leave such as paternity/maternity leave. Any contractual pay paid to an employee during the period in which they’re entitled to statutory bereavement pay can be offset against the liability to pay statutory bereavement pay.

Employers will be able to recover statutory bereavement pay from HMRC. Large firms with annual National Insurance contributions of over £45,000 would be entitled to recover 92% of money paid; all other employers would be entitled to recover 103%.

Bereavement leave will have to be taken before the end of a period of 56 days starting with the child’s death. If more than one child dies, the parent will be entitled to leave in respect of each child (i.e. the period of leave would multiply). Parents will be able to split the leave period such that two week-long periods of leave may be taken separately.

There is currently no legal obligation to provide paid time off for grieving parents, although many employers do so. The Employment Rights Act does give employees a Day 1 right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, which could include making arrangements following the death of a dependant.

ACAS publishes a good practice guide to bereavement at work.