Right to take up to two weeks’ paid leave after the death of a child expected to become law in 2020.
Written by Hayley Kirton, People Management/CIPD – Legislation that will provide a statutory right to time off for employees who lose a child has been praised for providing working parents with ‘reassurance’ at a difficult time.
The new law, details of which were published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) late last week, will create a right for parents to take two weeks of paid time off in the event of the death of a child under 18.
The parental bereavement bill, which was first introduced to parliament in July, is scheduled to have its second reading on Friday. The BEIS hopes the bill will become law by 2020.
Employees will have a right to the leave regardless of how long they have worked for an employer and will have a right to pay provided they have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service. Small businesses will be able to recover all of the pay from government while large businesses will be able to reclaim most of it, although the bill does not currently state what rate of pay will apply.
“Sadly I have had constituents who have gone through this dreadful experience, and while some parents prefer to carry on working, others need time off,” said Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, who is sponsoring the private member’s bill. “This new law will give employed parents a legal right to two weeks’ paid leave, giving them that all-important time and space away from work to grieve at such a desperately sad time.”
At present, the law does not expressly provide any right to time off following the death of a child, although the Employment Rights Act allows employees to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant.
Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD, said past research suggested that many employers already provided their staff with paid bereavement leave. “This new law will build on this so all bereaved parents of children under the age of 18 will have the reassurance of knowing they don’t have to worry about work while they grieve for loved ones in the immediate aftermath of such a tragedy,” he said.
Francine Bates, chief executive of charity The Lullaby Trust, added: “We warmly welcome this new law giving paid leave to bereaved parents. Losing a child is one of the most devastating experiences that a parent can go through and it is vital that they are supported by their employer and not made to return to work before they are ready.”
According to the BEIS, if the law is enacted as planned, it will make the UK one of the most generous countries for entitlement to time off after the death of a child. The bill also effectively makes good on a promise made by Theresa May ahead of the Conservative manifesto launch this summer to create a right to leave in the event of the death of a child.
“We want parents to feel properly supported by their employer when they go through the deeply distressing ordeal of losing a child,” said business minister Margot James. “That’s why the government is backing this bill, which goes significantly further than most other countries in providing this kind of workplace right for employees.”
A survey run on behalf of Child Bereavement UK revealed that almost a third (32 per cent) of those who had experienced the death of a loved one in the last five years felt they were not treated with compassion by their employer.
Meanwhile, a poll published by funeral service provider CPJ Field last week found that a quarter (25 per cent) of workers took no time off following the death of somebody close to them, while 11 per cent took just one day’s leave. This is despite 98 per cent of the 2,000 UK employees surveyed believing it was reasonable to take some time off following a death.