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What are the basics of parental bereavement leave?

Parental bereavement leave is the right for employees to take up to two weeks off to deal with the death of a child, if they die under the age of 18 or are stillborn (after 6 April 2020). This is the minimum right permitted by law but can be enhanced.

Qualifying employees can take up to two weeks off if they are an employee from their first day of employment. They may also qualify for Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP) if they are an employee or worker who has at least 26 weeks of continuous service with their employer.

What parents qualify for parental bereavement leave?

This right to take parental bereavement leave applies to:

  • biological parents

  • adoptive parents

  • intended parents

  • the partners of parents

It also applied to other adults (eg foster parents and family members who care for the child in their own home in the absence of the child's parent), provided that the child lived with them and they had responsibility for the child for at least 4 weeks before death. 

Parental bereavement leave

Qualifying parents can take up to two weeks of parental bereavement leave, from their first day of employment, if:

  • they are an employee

  • their child dies under the age of 18 or is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy

If more than one child dies, employees can take up to two weeks off for each child.

How much leave are employees entitled to?

Qualifying employees can take leave up to 56 weeks after a child’s death. The two weeks’ leave can either be taken as a single block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week each (eg one week around the time of the child’s death and another week around the first anniversary of the child’s death).

Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP)

Staff will be eligible for SPBP if:

  • they are an employee or a worker

  • they have at least 26 weeks of continuous service

  • their child dies under the age of 18 or is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy

  • they earn at least £123 (before tax) a week

You must pay qualifying staff the lower of:

  • £184.03 a week, or

  • 90% of their average weekly earnings

You can offer more parental bereavement pay, however, you cannot offer less. This is called 'contractual' or ‘enhanced’ parental bereavement pay and must be set out in an Employment contract or a business' parental bereavement policy. Ask a lawyer if you would like a bespoke policy drafted.

How can parental bereavement leave be taken?

Employees must give notice when they are taking parental bereavement leave. To give notice, the employee must tell you:

  • when they want the leave to start
  • how much time they want off (ie 1 or 2 weeks)
  • the date of the child’s death

This notice does not need to be in writing.

How much notice employees need to give will depend on when they are taking leave.

Taking leave within 8 weeks of the child’s death

If employees want to take leave within the first eight weeks of the child’s death, they can start their leave as soon as they give notice to their employer. This notice can be given before they are due to start work on their first day of absence.

Taking leave after 8 weeks following the child’s death

If employees want to take leave between 8 and 56 weeks following the child’s death, then they must give one week’s notice.

Claiming SPBP

Where employees are claiming SPBP they must do so by giving their employer notice in writing within 28 days of starting their leave. In this notice, they must state:

  • their name

  • their entitlement to SPBP

  • the start and end dates of the leave they want to claim SPBP for

  • the date of the child’s death

  • their relationship with the child

Notice must be given for each week if an employee takes the two weeks off separately.

Employees can give notice of their leave and SPBP in one document.

How can parental leave be cancelled?

Employees cannot typically cancel a week of parental bereavement leave that they have already started. They can, however, change the date of the second week (which has not yet been started) by giving notice to the employer.

Any cancelled leave can be taken later by giving notice again.

What should employers consider when employees are requesting bereavement leave?

Employers should ensure that employees requesting or taking bereavement leave should not suffer any disadvantage by doing so. The employee’s terms and conditions of employment (except for their pay) should continue as usual (eg holiday continues to accrue), and upon returning to work, the employee should return to the job they left. Employees and workers are also permitted to carry over any statutory holiday entitlements remaining at the end of a leave year into the next leave year if they’ve been unable to take this holiday due to being on parental bereavement leave.

If an employee requested to take bereavement leave or took bereavement leave and was dismissed because of this, they may bring a claim for unfair dismissal. In line with other family-related rights, an employee does not need 2 years’ service to bring such a claim.

Businesses should bear in mind that while 2 weeks’ leave is better than nothing, parents may need more time off to fully deal with their loss. As a result, employers should also try to be flexible and where possible, offer additional leave (whether paid or unpaid) and support to help grieving parents cope with their loss. A change to the employee’s working schedule, for example, to allow them to work remotely, may help employees feel supported in the workplace.

Businesses may wish to consider putting in place a parental bereavement leave policy, setting out information regarding parental bereavement leave. Ask a lawyer for more information.

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