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Statutory bereavement leave and pay for parents from April 2020

  • Legal Development 21 April 2020 21 April 2020
  • UK & Europe

  • Employment, Pensions & Immigration

With effect from 6 April 2020, grieving parents may be eligible for parental bereavement leave and pay. The new legislation, which follows the Government's commitment to support employed parents dealing with the devastating loss of a child, entitles eligible parents who have suffered the loss of a child under 18 or a stillbirth from 24 weeks' pregnancy, to two weeks’ statutory parental bereavement leave and statutory parental bereavement pay. To be eligible for paid leave an employee must have

Statutory bereavement leave and pay for parents from April 2020

The Government has published its Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave: employer guide.  This guidance confirms employees' entitlements to statutory bereavement leave and pay, who is eligible, the notice required to start and cancel leave and pay, dealing with requests for employees who aren't eligible, and the records employers must keep of payments made.

More details about these new rights are outlined below.

Parental bereavement leave (PBL)

What is the entitlement?

Employees can choose whether to take PBL as two consecutive weeks' leave or as two separate blocks of one week. The leave must be taken within 56 weeks of the child’s death, which allows employees the flexibility to retain some of their leave until a later date such as the child’s birthday or death anniversary.

Where more than one child has died the employee is entitled to PBL (and pay if they are eligible) in respect of each child.

Who is eligible?

To qualify for PBL, an employee must meet the criteria both as an employee and as a parent. To meet the first criteria for PBL entitlement, they must:

  • be an employee
  • give the correct notice

For eligibility as a parent, the legislation covers a range of qualifying parental relationships, including if at the time of the child’s death or stillbirth:

  • the employee was the child’s parent - either biological, adoptive or parent of a child born to a surrogate – or the partner of the child’s parent
  • the child was living with the employee or their partner at their home for four continuous weeks, ending with the date of the death and had day-to-day responsibility for the child's care during that time

What are the notice requirements?

Employees only need to provide minimal notice to take PBL. The notice they must give depends on when the employee intends to take PBL. So if PBL is taken:

  • Between 0-8 weeks of the date of the child's death: notice must be given before the time they would normally start work on the first day of the period they want to take off work  or where that is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter
  • Between 9-56 weeks of the date of the child's death: notice must be given at least one week before the leave starts

Employees can give notice informally, for example by phone, text message or email, and must notify their employer of:

1.            the date of the child's death or stillbirth

2.            the date they want their PBL to begin, and

3.            whether they are taking one or two weeks

Statutory parental bereavement pay (SPBP)

What is the entitlement?

SPBP for an eligible employee is either £151.20 a week (for 2020/21) or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

Who is eligible?

To receive SPBP, employees must have at least 26 weeks' continuous employment at the end of the ‘relevant week’ – which is the week (ending with a Saturday) immediately before the week of the child's death or stillbirth.

Employees must also:

  • remain in that employment up to the day the child dies or is stillborn
  • earn on average £120 (gross) a week (for 2020/2021)
  • give the correct notice

What are the notice requirements?

To receive SPBP, employees must serve notice of their intention to take PBL, specifying:

1.            their name

2.            the date the child died

3.            the intended week or weeks of PBL, and

4.            a self-declaration that they meet the qualifying conditions because of their relationship to the child or baby

Notice must be given either before the start of the SPBP period, or no more than 28 days after the first day of the week the employee wants to claim pay for.

Protections for employees

There are a number of protections afforded to employees who exercise this new right which employers should be aware of, including protection from detriment whilst on or after taking PBL such that their employer cannot treat them less favourably as a consequence of their decision to take PBL. Moreover, with the exception of remuneration, an employee’s terms and conditions will remain unchanged during PBL.

Following the end of PBL employees have a right to return to the same job. Where PBL is combined with another period of statutory parental leave (such as maternity leave) they have a right to return to the same job or, if that is not reasonably practicable for the employer, to another job which is suitable and appropriate for the employee to do in the circumstances.

Implications for employers

Managers and Payroll should be aware of the organisation’s obligations in relation to these new rights.

In particular, managers will have to understand who falls within the statutory definition of parent for the purposes of taking PBL so that they don't refuse requests from eligible employees. Employers should also ensure that managers are aware that employees have the right not to suffer any disadvantage by taking PBL and have the right to claim unfair dismissal if they are dismissed because they have taken or wished to take PBL.

Employers should update their policies and procedures to take account of the introduction of this new right. 

Some organisations will have compassionate leave policies in place already which may offer bereaved employees a more generous entitlement to paid leave than under the statutory rules. These organisations should ensure that they incorporate the PBL and SPBP entitlements into their policies to avoid them being treated as standalone, additional benefits.

Those organisations that don't have a formal bereavement policy may wish to review their current practices for bereaved parents and consider introducing a formal policy that encapsulates the new PBL and SPBP rights.

For any questions or assistance with drafting a policy that conforms with the new statutory requirements, please contact your usual advisor at Clyde & Co.

Written by Stephen Miller and Corinna Harris.


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