The UK Parliament recently introduced a right to two weeks’ paid bereavement leave for employees who suffer the loss of a child or a stillbirth. The campaign for the new law was spearheaded by Lucy Herd following the accidental drowning of her son Jack.
The Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 (also known as “Jack’s Law”) will take effect on 6 April 2020, and will apply to all employees who suffer the loss of a child under the age of 18 or whose child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The regulations will allow all employees, regardless of their length of service, to take two weeks’ leave in the wake of such a loss. Employees may either take the leave as a two-week period or in two one-week increments in the 12 months following the loss.
While the new regulations give all employees the right to bereavement leave, they do not give all employees the right to be paid while on leave. To be eligible for statutory bereavement pay, employees must have accrued 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employers, and have weekly average earnings over the lower earnings limit of £118 per week (for 2019 to 2020). At the date of introduction, bereavement pay will be paid at the rate of £148.68 per week (for 2019 to 2020) or 90 percent of an employee’s average weekly earnings (whichever is the lower amount).
In light of the new obligation to grant bereavement leave to UK employees who have lost a child, employers should consider updating their employee handbooks accordingly. Employers may also want to give thought to reviewing existing compassionate leave policies to decide how they will handle situations that fall outside the ambit of the bereavement leave regulations—for example if an employee loses a child over the age of 18 or suffers an early term miscarriage.