Bereaved parents have a statutory right to leave should they lose a child before they turn 18, or have a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The leave applies to parents whose child dies or is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy on or after 6 April 2020 (England and Wales) or 6 April 2022 (Northern Ireland). The right is only in place for employees, but covers adoptive parents and the partner of a parent who lives with that parent and the child in an “enduring family relationship.” The child must be under 18.
The minimum period of parental bereavement leave is one week. The employee can choose to take either one week or two weeks. The two weeks do not need to be consecutive and parental bereavement leave can be taken at any time within 56 weeks from the date the child died.
Parental bereavement leave is paid, if the employee has at least six months’ continuous service and normal weekly earnings of at least the lower earnings limit. An employee is entitled to receive statutory bereavement leave pay of £172.48 per week, as of April 2023, or 90 per cent of normal weekly earnings, whichever is the lower.
Telling your employer
The notice you must give to your employer depends at what stage in the 56 weeks you wish to exercise the right to leave.
In the first 56 days, starting with the day your child died, you are required to tell your employer of your intention to take parental bereavement leave before the first day of absence or as soon as is reasonably practicable.
After the first 56 days you are required to give at least one weeks’ notice of your intention.
In both situations you must specify:
- the date of death.
- the date which you choose any period of absence to begin.
- whether you will be taking one or two weeks’ leave.
You can only cancel leave that has not already started. In the first 56 days you can cancel up to the first day of the week that you would normally work. After 56 days you must give at least one weeks’ notice of your decision to cancel the leave.
Taking less than a week
If you need to take single days off, for example to arrange or attend your child’s funeral, you may prefer to take what is known as ‘time off for dependants’ rather than using a whole week of parental bereavement leave. It is usually unpaid unless you have the right to paid time off for dependents, but it means you do not have to take a whole week off if you do not want to.
Protections under the regulations
You have a right to return to the job you were doing before your absence and this is the case if you take other forms of statutory leave (e.g. parental leave) that do not exceed 26 weeks. After 26 weeks, if your employer cannot permit you to return to your original job you must be able to return to another job which is suitable and appropriate.
You are protected from being subject to a detriment and/or from being unfairly dismissed because you exercised your right to take parental bereavement leave.
The provisions are not ideal as they only give parents a right to two weeks’ leave and this is only paid if the parent has six months’ service. The NEU argued for a longer leave period during the consultation process. The union also believes that the notice requirements are unduly complicated given the circumstances in which the right arises.