As of the 6th April this year, all employees, irrespective of length of service, will be entitled to a minimum of two weeks leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or experience a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
This is to be known as ‘Jacks Law’ in honour of Jack Herd whose mother, Lucy, has campaigned tirelessly for 10 years for this law after discovering, upon the death of their son, that her husband was only entitled to 3 days paid leave and any further time off would be considered sick/holiday leave. Whilst you would hope that most employers would not take this attitude at such a distressing time, unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.
The introduction of this legislation, which offers the longest length of paid leave for child bereavement in the world, will mean parents are given the opportunity to have some breathing space before having to think about returning to work. Of course, two weeks is only the statutory minimum. Many employers would not expect to see a grieving parent returning to work within two weeks, however this is at their discretion.
There are some important factors to consider when drafting any policies that align with this new legislation, including:
- If an employee has at least 6 months service, they will be able to claim statutory pay for this 2-week period which will be paid in line with other parental pay entitlements.
- The employee is entitled to choose whether the 2-week period is taken in one block of 2 weeks or in two 1-week blocks and the employer will not be able to refuse or postpone this, but it must be taken within 56 weeks of the child’s death or stillbirth.
- The definition of ‘parent’ under this legislation does not just entitle birth parents to leave but also includes (but is not limited to) an adult with parental responsibility such as a legal guardian, an adoptive parent or a grandparent, if they have had full parental responsibility of the child for a minimum of a continuous 4-week period.
In the UK, there are on average 7,500 child deaths and stillbirths each year, meaning that this new law will support around 10,000 families a year while they deal with their own grief, the grief of the wider family, make funeral arrangements and deal with the administrative tasks associated with losing a child.
What does this mean for you or your business?
Most employers will already have some sort of Bereavement Policy in place; however, it will be worth ensuring that these existing policies reflect these changes, taking into consideration the above factors.
You can find the legislation here.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.