From 6 April 2020, employees will have a statutory right to take paid or unpaid leave (depending on their circumstances) in the event of the death of a child or a stillbirth.
What is Parental Bereavement Leave?
Parental Bereavement Leave is a period of up to two weeks' leave that may be taken at any time within 56 weeks of the death of a child (eg someone under the age of 18, including a baby which is stillborn after at least 24 weeks of pregnancy).
The leave may be taken as:
- One whole week;
- Two consecutive weeks; or
- Two separate weeks at different times.
The leave can be taken in two blocks and within 56 weeks in order to enable employees to take the second week off around the anniversary of the child's death if they choose. The bereaved parent is entitled to a separate period of leave in relation to each child in a situation where more than one child has died or been stillborn.
Who is eligible for Parental Bereavement Leave?
Parental Bereavement Leave is available to employees only, from the commencement of employment. An employee is a ‘parent’ if they are any of the following:
- A natural, adoptive or surrogate parent;
- A natural parent where the child has been adopted, but there is a court order for the child to have contact with the natural parent;
- A person with whom the child has been placed for adoption by a British adoption agency, or under a fostering for adoption scheme, as long as that placement has not been terminated;
- A person living with the child who intends to adopt them and has received "official notification" from the British authorities that they are eligible to adopt, in cases where the child has entered Great Britain from overseas for the purposes of adoption;
- An intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement (where the court was expected to make a parental order);
- Someone in whose home the child is living and who has had day to day responsibility for the child’s care for at least the four weeks prior to death (eg a guardian or a foster parent but not a paid carer (other than a local authority foster carer)), unless the child’s parent or anyone with legal parental responsibility is also living in the home with the child;
- The partner of any of the above.
Under the statutory scheme, the leave must be taken as whole weeks, so it is assumed that leave of less than a week would still reduce the statutory entitlement by a week. Whilst there is nothing to prevent employers from allowing the employee to use up their entitlement in days rather than whole weeks, this could cause difficulty when it comes to the entitlement to statutory pay, as a whole week of leave must be taken in order to qualify for a week's Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (see below).
How is Parental Bereavement Leave taken?
The employee must notify their employer of:
- the date of the child’s death;
- the date on which the employee wants the leave to start; and
- whether the employee intends to take one or two weeks.
There is no particular requirement for the employer to be informed in writing.
For leave in the first seven weeks, the employee must notify their employer before the time they are due to start work on the day they want leave to start or as soon as reasonably practicable. In weeks eight to 56, the employee must give at least seven days' notice of their intention to take Parental Bereavement Leave.
What is Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay?