26 Apr 2021
Sadly, bereavement is something that will affect all of us in our lives. 1 in 10 employees are likely to be affected by the death of a loved one at any point. This impact on an employee’s wellbeing will make it hard for them to perform in their role, which is why we have
Some employers may have offered bereavement leave before, but it would have only been their own internal processes.
However, until recently, there has been no legal obligation for employers to provide paid time off for grieving parents. This is despite the prevalence of childhood deaths.
The UK government introduced the paid parental bereavement leave to the act on 6 April 2020, granting statutory rights to those affected.
We explain the entitlements in parental bereavement leave policy and discuss how HR can support grieving staff during a tough time.
What is bereavement leave for parents?
Parental bereavement leave in the UK is a recent addition to employment law.
It entitles employees to reasonable time off to deal with an emergency, such as the death of a child. This entitlement is only to unpaid leave and does not allow for a longer time off to grieve.
The legislation now entitles parents who suffer stillbirth or the loss of a child to two weeks’ statutory parental bereavement leave (SPBL) while those with six months’ service will also be entitled to statutory pay (SPBP.)
We know the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations as Jack’s Law, in memory of Jack Herd, whose mother Lucy campaigned for mandatory leave for grieving parents.
The new legislation will not entitle employers to request a copy of the child’s death certificate as evidence of an employee’s right to the entitlement.
What are employees entitled to?
The Act gives a statutory right to a minimum of two weeks’ leave for all employees with parental responsibilities if they lose a child under the age of 18, or have a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy. The right will exist irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer.
Adults with parental responsibility include adopters, foster parents, and guardians. It’s also expected to apply to those classed as ‘kinship carers.’ Who may be close relatives or family friends that have assumed responsibility for looking after a child in the absence of parents.
The new entitlement will also apply to parents who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. It will still entitle female employees to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and/or pay, as will a mother who loses a child after it is born.
Parental bereavement leave and pay policy
Parents and primary carers must have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks before the child’s death to be eligible for paid parental bereavement leave.
All employees have a right to unpaid bereavement leave from day one.
Parents and primary carers who have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks prior to when the child dies, and have received pay equal or above for the previous eight weeks, are entitled to at least two weeks’ statutory paid leave.
How to further support employees
Although managing bereavement in the workplace is challenging for any team, treating employees with kindness and compassion at such a traumatic time will be beneficial to all.
Not only will staff feel supported and valued, but the loyalty and engagement this will engender will benefit the organisation.
So here are some ways you can further support and make arrangements for bereaving parents.
Additional bereavement leave policy
People recover at different rates and the 2 weeks of leave may not be enough for some.
In one study of bereaved UK adults, 30% stated that they needed over two weeks before they felt able to go back to work, so you will want to be flexible, supportive and sensitive to your employee’s needs during this hard time.
You may also want to consider offering additional paid leave; for example, Facebook enables employees to take up to 20 days’ paid leave to grieve for an immediate family member
Having a clear company policy on bereavement leave can help to manage grief in the workplace. It’ll also help your employees know what they can expect in terms of bereavement time off and pay.
Your policy should include any time off work for bereavement rights entitled to employees.
Support mental health
Employees who suffer a loss may experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) So while you may believe that time off will be enough to help, it may be a long battle they face with mental health.
If an employee is likely to be affected by their mental health condition for over 6 months, this could constitute a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
In these cases, you must seek medical advice and make reasonable adjustments. Offering counselling could also help bereaved parents on their road to recovery
Respect religious beliefs
Employers should know different religions have their own bereavement traditions and funeral rites. Refusing to allow an employee to observe their beliefs and customs could amount to religious discrimination.
Expert support on leave and absences with Croner
Asbences at work are never good. If employees aren’t in, you’re losing money. Managing employee absences and wellbeing is essential to reduce any unnecessary absences. Rushing employees back from bereavement leave may end up with further absences down the line.
We will draft you a complaint absence policy or review your current one. If you need someone to conduct meetings with the employee on your behalf, we will handle that for you.
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