Parents Entitled to Bereavement Leave under New Law

18 September 2018

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018, which has now been enshrined in UK law, will grant paid bereavement leave to parents who have lost a child or suffered a stillbirth.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018

This new law is the first of its kind in the UK and entitles parents who have lost a child, to 2 weeks' paid leave from work. The law will apply to any parent who is employed and loses a child under the age of 18 or suffers a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. They will then be able to claim pay during this period of leave, providing they meet certain eligibility criteria.

The law, which was passed last month, is expected to come into force in April 2020.

While many employers choose to grant paid bereavement leave to employees who have suffered the death of a loved one, there has previously been no legal obligation on them to do so.

Campaigners have been pushing for a change to the law that would entitle bereaved parents to time away from work to come to terms with their loss. The passing of the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act into law has been welcomed by many campaigners, bereavement charities and MPs alike.

Who Will Be Entitled to Leave Under the New Law?

Under the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act, any employee who has suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18 or who has suffered a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy will be entitled to take a minimum of 2 weeks off work.

Employees with 26 weeks' continuous service will be entitled to claim pay for the duration of this leave. Those without 26 weeks' continuous service will still be entitled to take the leave, but this may be unpaid.

The statutory pay under the Act works in the same way as statutory maternity pay, which is currently either £145.18 per week, or 90% of average weekly earnings – whichever is lowest.

How Does the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act Work?

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act is the first law of its kind that gives employees a legal entitlement to take time off work following a bereavement. This law relates only to the loss of a child by a parent. There is still no legislation in place entitling bereavement leave to employees who have lost another member of their close family or their household.

Although employers have, until now, not been legally obliged to grant bereavement leave, under the Employment Rights Act 1996 they are expected to allow employees to take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave for an unforeseen matter or emergency involving a dependent. This would include a child or someone else who relies on them for care, and this could include taking time off to deal with an injury, or death, as well as time off to arrange or attend a funeral.

Despite this, there have been situations where parents have not been allowed to take time away from work following the loss of a child. At the forefront of the campaign was a mother called Lucy Herd who lost her young son in a tragic accident in 2010. After the death, her husband was only allowed to take 3 days off work, including one for the funeral. She has been campaigning for a change to the law ever since.

For more information on Bereavement Leave in general, see our Employee Guide to Bereavement Leave.

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