As reported in the BBC News, from 6 April 2020, all employees who lose a child under the age of 18, or who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, will be entitled to 2 weeks' statutory bereavement leave to be taken in one block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of a week each. This applies regardless of how long they have worked for their employer.

Employees with at least 26 weeks' service , who earn at least the  Lower Earnings Limit (which is £118 for the tax year 2019/20 and set to increase for the tax year 2020/21 when the entitlement comes into force), will also qualify for Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay. The leave is paid at the lower of £151.20 per week or 90% of salary.

The new legislation also provides the right not to suffer a detriment or be unfairly dismissed as a result of taking the leave entitlement.

Employees will have up to 56 weeks from the date of their child’s death (or stillbirth) to use up their leave entitlement (for example, bereaved parents may decide to take the 2nd week of their leave entitlement around the anniversary of their child’s death). 

Where employers’ bereavement policies are less generous than the new statutory provision, employers will need to update these to provide for at least the minimum statutory entitlement. For employers who do not have an existing bereavement policy, the statutory provisions will automatically apply from 6 April in respect of employees who lose a child under the age of 18 from that date. 

This is the first time bereavement leave becomes a statutory entitlement, albeit only in respect of bereaved parents where the loss is a child under 18. It also perhaps paves the way in future for the extension of bereavement leave for employees who lose close family members/partners. Whilst the new legislation is limited in scope, it avoids the need for grieving parents to whom the legislation applies having to negotiate with their employers how time taken off will be recorded and paid (where for example an alternative leave entitlement such as sick leave or maternity leave does not apply or is not being exercised) and provides certainty for employers.

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