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Parental Bereavement Bill

MP Will Quince’s Parental Bereavement Bill passed the final stage in the House of Commons last month, seeking to allow parents time to grieve after the death of their child and gaining unanimous cross-party support. Quince proposed the bill along with Kevin Hollinrake, after Quince’s son, Robert, was stillborn at full term in 2014, suffering from Edward’s Syndrome.

Current legal position

While it is expected of employers to be compassionate and flexible when their employees face difficult times such as mourning the loss of a loved one, there is no legal requirement for employers to provide leave or pay to employees who are grieving the loss of a child.

Under the Employment Rights Act, employees do have a day-one right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off for emergencies such as making arrangements for the death of a loved one. However, this ‘reasonable’ threshold is highly subjective, and it is down to the discretion of the employer to make the decision as to what is deemed reasonable. The agreed length of time off will typically be agreed by the employer and employee dependent on the situation, and what is deemed most appropriate.

In a situation where the employee and employer are unable to agree with one another over what length of time is ‘reasonable’, the disagreement can be referred and dealt with through ACAS or via an Employment Tribunal.

The Bill

The Bill, dubbed ‘Robert’s Bill’ in honour of Quince’s son, guarantees bereavement leave and pay for those employees who have lost a child under the age of 18. Ensuring at least two weeks leave and pay for parents will become a legal entitlement. This bill will be a day-one right and employees with a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous employment will be eligible for this statutory parental bereavement pay.

However, before the Bill will be officially passed and becomes legally binding on employers, it must undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords. Quince said: “When members of the public, who in some cases have a bit of disdain for politicians, say ‘You MPs you do nothing, what do you do for us?’, well today we’re doing something for tens of thousands of bereaved parents up and down this country.”

This proposal is estimated to cost the government between £1.3m and £2m annually.

What to do until the Bill comes in

If an employer is unsure what procedure to following if an employee suffers a grievance, you can look to ACAS who have published good practice guidance on managing bereavement in the workplace.

If you need help and advice regarding managing bereavement in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact me or the employment team on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.