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Parental bereavement leave and rights

Our expert employment solicitor explains parents’ rights to time off work and other entitlements following the death of a child.

17 June 2022

The loss of a child is something that many of us never expect to experience, and is without a doubt one of the worst things that somebody could go through. The legal right to bereavement leave after the death of a child is something many assume has always been in place, but only came into force in 2020 under The Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations.

Below, our employment law expert Laura Thompson explains parental bereavement leave, bereavement pay, your rights, and how to approach your employer about bereavement leave.

Who’s entitled to parental bereavement leave?

The Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 (the ‘PBL Regulations’) and the Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020 came into effect on 6th April 2020.

Known as Jack’s Law in memory of Jack Herd, a 23-month-old toddler who drowned in 2010, Jack’s mother Lucy had campaigned tirelessly since losing her son for a reformation of bereavement leave.

The regulations give grieving parents the legal entitlement to two weeks leave following the death of a child on or after April 2020. The right to PBL applies to all employees, with no minimum service requirement, and to parents, adoptive parents, and others responsible for the day-to-day care of a child.

What rights do you have when taking parental bereavement leave?

If you have parental bereavement leave entitlement, you can take up to two weeks’ leave within 56 weeks of the death.

Taking this leave won’t impact your employment contract in any way, and the employee has the right to return to work with the same seniority and pension rights. There’s also all of the usual protection against dismissal and discrimination when employees seeking to take this leave.

How is bereavement pay calculated?

An employee who qualifies for Parental Bereavement Leave is also entitled to Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (‘SPBP’) provided that they also have 26 weeks continuous employment and meet the minimum earnings during the eight weeks before the loss of their child.

This limit is set at earnings being no less than the National Insurance lower earnings limit, which can be seen here. If you’re eligible for this bereavement pay, you’ll be able to get either £172.48 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

As with other forms of statutory leave payments, the employer is entitled to a 92% reimbursement of SPBP from the government. Some companies offer more leave and bereavement pay for employees in their workplace bereavement policy, but they can only recover 2 weeks’ payment for each employee. For small employers, the whole amount is reimbursed.

What are employees or their partners entitled to in the event of a miscarriage or stillbirth?

Experiencing a miscarriage or a stillbirth can be extremely traumatic for expecting parents. Unfortunately, in the event of a miscarriage in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, there’s currently no legal entitlement to statutory parental bereavement leave, maternity leave, or paternity leave for parents.

Miscarriage is considered a bereavement by many, and as a result many employers have a bereavement policy in place to allow employees a period of paid leave after the loss of a pregnancy. It’s always best to speak directly to your employer, or HR representative, to explain what you’ve been through and discuss whether there’s a workplace policy in place entitling you to time off work.

If you’ve experienced a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, then you do have legal rights to time off work to grieve your loss if you’ve experienced this.

As stated by ACAS, if a child is stillborn, the following rights to leave are in place:

  • The birth mother is entitled to up to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave or pay
  • The birth father can get up to two weeks of paternity leave or pay
  • The partner of the birth mother or adopter can get up to two weeks of paternity or maternity leave or pay

After maternity or paternity leave has been taken, the birth mother, birth father or partner will then be entitled to a further two weeks of parental bereavement leave.

How to approach your employer about bereavement leave

If you’ve recently lost a child, going to work may be the last thing on your mind. This is an extremely personal and upsetting matter which can be difficult to discuss.

Our employment solicitors understand how challenging this can be, but it’s important that your employer knows what you’re going through, so that they can make accommodations and grant you any parental bereavement leave, bereavement pay, maternity leave, or paternity leave that you’re entitled to.

If you’re uncomfortable approaching your boss or manager with what you’re going through, it’s sometimes easier to speak to a HR representative at your company, or another senior member of staff, who can communicate with your employer and begin arrangements for your bereavement leave and pay.

Or, if you’re still struggling with how to open up about your loss, The Sands Bereavement Support app is a tool that was created specifically for anyone who has experienced the death of a baby, which provides information and support resources for bereaved parents. See more on the SANDS app here.

The charity SANDS works in partnership with health care professionals to ensure that anyone affected by the death of a baby receives the best possible care and support for as long as they need it. Alternatively, if you’d like to speak to someone about your specific situation, call the SANDS Helpline on 0207 4365881, or email them at helpline@sands.org.uk.

How we can help

If you feel your employer is treating you unfairly or isn’t willing to offer you the parental bereavement leave you’re entitled to, then it’s important to speak to an employment lawyer to discover what your next steps are to ensure you have access to your rights.

Our experts know that the loss of a child is extremely difficult, both physically and emotionally, and we’re on your side to ensure that your employer is treating you fairly and granting your rights to time off work to grieve your loss.

We’re one of the UK’s largest consumer law firms and our team are experts in all elements of employment law, so you can trust that you’re in safe hands. If you’d like to speak with one of the team, simply get in touch on 0330 041 5869, or you can contact us via our online form or web chat.

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