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30th October 2017

Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill published

The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill 2017-19 was published on 13 October 2017. This Private Members’ Bill is backed by the Government and therefore it is likely to become legislation in due course.

There are no current statutory provisions governing compassionate or bereavement leave. Companies often have a basic policy which provides for a limited number of days’ leave in the case of the death of a close dependant. Other businesses simply treat each request for leave on a case-by-case basis.

Employees may currently attempt to use the statutory right to dependant leave in the case of the death of a relative. However, this does not extend to the taking of longer leave and relates largely to any immediate emergency or necessity to make arrangements following death. Often, therefore, employees are forced to use annual leave or even take a period of sickness absence in order to grieve and to make arrangements for the funeral.

The proposed legislation is to amend the current position in law which would give the Secretary of State the power to make regulations giving employees who lose a child below the age of 18 the right to the following:

  • Regardless of length of service, at least 2 weeks’ leave which would not impact on existing right to leave or pay.
  • At least 2 weeks’ statutory bereavement pay. Employees with at least 26 weeks’ service would be entitled to be paid the prescribed rate or 90% of their average earnings, whichever is lower.
  • Employees would be protected from detriment, redundancy and dismissal as a result of taking bereavement leave.

The second reading of the bill took place on 20 October 2017. If all legislative stages are completed, it is expected that regulations will be introduced in 2018.

It is highly unlikely that an extension to the right to bereavement leave will be introduced in the foreseeable future; for example to allow paid leave in the case of the death of an older close relative. For now, businesses are advised to read a guide published by ACAS on Managing Bereavement in the Workplace, which covers good practice, avoiding discrimination and frequently asked questions.

Source: Chadwick Lawrence

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