Whilst the loss of a child is understandably something that few parents wish even to consider, steps are currently underway to provide specific rights for bereaved parents.
Parliament has today published the draft Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, which is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons later next week.
At present, the Bill (which it should be noted is not yet law) provides for parents to receive 2 weeks’ paid leave away from work following the death of a child who was under the age of 18. This leave will need to be taken not more than 56 days after the child has passed away.
A parent may be entitled to receive statutory parental bereavement pay where they satisfy strict conditions of employment, including (but not limited to) having worked for an employer for a complete period of 26 weeks ending with the week before the child passes away.
The Bill also makes provision for a bereaved parent to be entitled to bereavement leave and pay for each child where more than one child has died, if they meet the conditions referred to above. Additionally, where a child has been stillborn after the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy has passed, further regulations may be put in place to provide for a parent to be entitled to bereavement leave and pay.
However, there is already an existing concern that employees in this country do not (or do not feel able to) take the proper time away from work that is necessary to allow them to grieve for their lost loved ones.
Whilst this is purely draft legislation at the moment, it is certainly encouraging to see proposals for employment rights to be extended in such a way, if only for the sake of clarity not only for employees but also for employers, both of whom may need a helping hand when it comes to understanding a parent’s rights following bereavement.
However, it may also be useful for a firm position to be reached in relation to how the law regards the state of compassionate leave (and potentially pay also) in the event of close family members (who are not children under the age of 18) passing away.
Taking into account the fact that employees can take a reasonable period of unpaid time off where it is necessary as a result of the death of a dependant, it would be nice to have further clarification of:-
(a) the position relating to the passing of those who are not dependants, but who are sufficiently close to the employee to warrant time off to grieve, and
(b) whether, given the position of this Bill, we may see an overhaul of the right to bereavement pay during a period of leave following the death of a dependant or of someone who is sufficiently close to the employee to warrant such leave being granted.
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