From April 2020, working parents will be entitled to two weeks’ bereavement leave following the death of a child under 18. The new law is also known as ‘Jack’s Law’ in memory of Jack Herd who died at 23 months and whose mother has since campaigned on the issue of leave for bereaved parents.
At the moment all employees have the right to take unpaid time off to take action that is necessary as a consequence of a dependant's death. This only enables an employee to deal with the logistical matters which arise as a result of a death, such as arranging and attending a funeral and, where appropriate, applying for probate. But this is not a right to compassionate leave.
Acas guidance advises that employers can treat time off for bereavement as either holiday or sick leave, depending on their workplace policies and the individual circumstances.
Parents who lose a child under 18 will be able to take two weeks’ bereavement leave as a single block of two weeks or two separate blocks of one week during the first year following the death.
Parents will be entitled to the right from their first day of employment. However, they will only become entitled to statutory payment if they have been employed for 26 weeks. The payment is the lower of either £148.68 per week or 90% of salary.
Is it enough?
It is certainly a positive step, although some employers have bereavement leave policies which already provide something more than this new statutory minimum. Employers should bear in mind that it is just a minimum. Many people cannot afford to take two weeks leave in return for £297.36.
Employers should also be aware that people recover from bereavement at different rates and therefore may want to consider offering additional paid leave. Facebook permit employees to take up to 20 days’ paid leave to grieve for an immediate family member.
Offering more paid leave is not the only way an employer can support a bereaved employee. They might consider offering flexible working arrangements or a phased return. Mental health issues can arise following a loss, such as anxiety, depression or PTSD. These can constitute a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, in which case you should seek medical advice in making reasonable adjustments.
For more information, check out this article from the BBC: Facebook bereavement leave: How long is long enough?