Parental bereavement leave will be introduced in April 2020 to support employees who have had a child under the age of 18 pass away. The current laws show a close relative or dependant bereavement will be granted 5 days leave and granted compassionate leave if further time off is required. There is no statutory pay for bereavement leave unless stated in your company handbook. This can cause great upset to families dealing with a loss where a tragedy has occurred, and an employee is worrying about money. It is usually understood the employee would require time off to spend with family and make funeral arrangements. Sometimes further arrangements are needed in terms of probate. ACAS state reasonable time off would be 1-2 days to deal with an emergency and 3-5 days for a bereavement. It will come down to the specific person as to how long they will need to grieve, it can vary from wanting to come back to work quickly to be in a normal workday or weeks to months to deal with any anxiety or depression that may arise.
The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 has received Royal Accent with the regulations yet to be set, however the Act can provide a good insight. What can we expect from this change?
A wider range of carers are now covered including;
- Adoptive parents
- Foster parents applying to adopt
- Most foster parents (not in short term arrangements)
- Legal guardians
- A parent who has suffered a stillborn birth from the 24th week of pregnancy
From April 2020 the statutory minimum for any of the above and including a traditional parent suffering a bereavement is 2 weeks paid leave. These weeks can be broken up into 2 blocks of 1 week periods. With notice, these blocks can be taken in the 56 weeks after the child has passed away. This takes into consideration the funeral (if a late date) and the first anniversary which can be very distressing. This flexibility also allows those on maternity leave to take bereavement leave after maternity leave has ended. Parents who suffer from a stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy are still entitled to maternity leave. To be entitled to parental bereavement pay, the employee must have worked for the company for 26 continuous weeks before the death and their normal weekly earnings in the 8 weeks leading up to it are not less than the lower earnings limit needed for national insurance contributions. Employees must provide a written declaration confirming they meet these factors and are therefore eligible. A company has no right to request a death certificate or note from the family doctor as proof as this is far too intrusive and can cause great upset to the employee and their family.
How can you support a grieving employee?
Grief can be dealt with in many different ways; anger, shock, denial and depression are all very common. There is no standard time limit to grieve, and it must be treated as ongoing support. A manager must be sensitive to the employee’s situation and understand their behaviour may change, they may have trouble sleeping and be distracted at work. Informal chats keep open the channel of communication and ensure your employee returns to work at an appropriate time. Many will want to normalise their lives by returning to work but might not be completely ready which can often leave to mistakes. It can be beneficial to reintroduce work slowly by reducing hours, changing hours if the employee has trouble sleeping or if appropriate, working from home. We would also advise to keep to the employees wishes when announcing their news to the rest of the company, they may wish for details to be limited and give indication on whether they would like it mentioned or not. A caring and flexible manager will be appreciated and be able to assist in a smooth return to work. Line managers need to have enough training with dealing in these matters, some may have had bereavements themselves and therefore feel unwilling to reach out as it may bring back unwanted feelings. In this case, a different manager or an HR representative may want to take over this supportive role.
If your employee feels they require a longer than average time away from work or are signed off sick from the doctor you may wish to recruit a new employee to cover the workload and take the pressure off the remaining team members. This can also create a less overwhelming feeling of returning to work for the employee knowing their role has been taken care of and a backlog of work isn’t going to be waiting for them.
HR Elite are here to assist any issues you may have – please call us on 01206 700 690 for further guidance. Parental Bereavement Leave will be coming into practice from April 2020 along with more new legislation. Keep up to date by subscribing to our newsletters and updates by clicking here