Bereavement, grief and loss can cause many different symptoms and they affect people in different ways. There’s no right or wrong way to feel.
There is no easy way of dealing with grief and people cope in different ways. However the common factor in dealing with loss is time. Time to prepare, time to heal and time to grieve.
One of the losses that many families could experience is the loss of a child.
Fortunately, a change in the law is incoming and parents who suffer the devastating loss of a child will be entitled to 2 weeks’ statutory leave.
The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations, which will be known as Jack’s Law in memory of Jack Herd whose mother Lucy campaigned tirelessly on the issue, will implement a statutory right to a minimum of 2 weeks’ leave for all employed parents if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer.
The UK is the first country in the world to offer this employment right set to take effect from the 6th April 2020.
Who is the law for?
The law is intended for employed parents who have lost a child under 18. It does not apply to workers or those who are self-employed, such as freelancers or contractors.
This right is a ‘day 1’ right, meaning that all employees are entitled to bereavement leave from the very start of their employment. There is no minimum eligibility requirement for length of service.
The right is also available to parents (and their partner) who suffer a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy.
Other carers are also included, such as grandparents, if they can prove that they have been the primary carer for the child in place of the child’s parents and will have provided day-to-day care for the child in their own home for a continuous period of at least four weeks ending with the child’s death (but not if they were paid for it – except in the case of foster parents who are eligible).
What is the right?
Parents will be able to take the leave as either a single block of 2 weeks, or as 2 separate blocks of one week each taken at different times across the first year after their child’s death. This means they can match their leave to the times they need it most, which could be in the early days or over the first anniversary.
The employer cannot refuse, postpone or amend the dates chosen by the employee but the leave must be taken within 56 weeks starting with the day of the death of the child. The leave can start on any day of the week.
If the employee loses more than one child, they are entitled to a period of bereavement leave for each child.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:
“There can be few worse experiences in life than the loss of a child and I am proud that this government is delivering ‘Jack’s Law’, making us the first country in the world to do so.”
Is the leave paid?
All employees will be entitled to the leave, but to be eligible to the pay, the parents must:
have been employed for at least 6 months (26 weeks) at the date of the death of the child,
and earn more than the lower earnings limit on average for the period of 8 weeks ending on the date of the death of the child.
It will be paid at the same statutory rate as maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption pay per week.
What notice do employees have to give?
To take parental bereavement leave, employees will need to inform their employer before they start work on their first day of absence, or if this isn’t possible as soon as they can.
To also claim parental bereavement pay, employees will need to notify their employer that they meet the qualifying conditions for Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay within 28 days of the leave starting or if this isn’t possible as soon as they can.
Around 7,500 child deaths, including around 3,000 stillbirths, occur in the UK every year. The government estimates that this new entitlement will help to support around 10,000 parents a year.
Offering time and flexibility to bereaved families at a time that best suits them is also crucial in supporting them through their journey.
The government has also said that this is the legal minimum. Employers can choose to provide more or build on the current entitlement.