The government is presently consulting on its Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, with the aim of reshaping the version published in Parliament, in October 2017.
This Bill proposes that bereaved parents who have at least 26 weeks service should be eligible for two weeks of paid leave, to be paid at a statutory rate for those who qualify. The intention is that the employer would be able to reclaim part, or all, of the cost from government.
The consultation, which closes on 8th of June, 2018, will focus on the details of the bill. The government is particularly keen to be accurate in defining a bereaved parent, believing that clarity on this issue is essential in order to avoid later challenges. One question the consultation will ask is whether the definition should stretch beyond legal parents (for example, biological or adoptive parents) to include individuals who care for children, and take on the parenting role without being their legal guardians (for example, step-parents).
The Bill aims to strike a balance between the need of a bereaved parent to have time to grieve, and the requirement of the employer to be able to plan for the demands of a business. It is clear that employers would like as much notice of absence as is feasible, in order to have some certainty over planning, but of course, this is not always possible.
Consequently, the consultation will also discuss when the bereaved parents should take their leave, whether it should be consecutive or in discontinuous blocks of a week or less, and how much notice they should give. In addition, it asks how soon after bereavement the employee can use the leave.
It will ask what sort of evidence employees will be required to provide and whether this will be at the discretion of the employer. Obviously, there is a delicate balance to be struck between treating the needs of the bereaved with sensitivity, and minimising inconvenience to the employer.
While there is presently no statutory requirement for employers to give paid bereavement leave, it should be noted that a majority already provide paid leave for staff who lose a close family member, as shown by a recent XpertHR survey. One third of the survey’s respondents provided fully paid leave, while the remainder mixed paid and unpaid leave.
The consultation is asking for input from as many interested groups as possible, stating that they would welcome views from working parents, employers, groups representing working parents and employers, groups involved in bereavement care, and legal, HR and payroll professionals.
Anyone who wishes to contribute can find the survey document at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy website (Authority URL: https://beisgovuk.citizenspace.com/lm/consultation-on-parental-bereavement-leave-and-pay/.
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