Legislation expert at leading HR software and services provider MHR Neil Tonks explains what employers need to know about new parental bereavement rules to support grieving parents.
New legislation, known as ‘Jack’s Law’ is set to be introduced in April 2020 after a 10-year campaign led by Lucy Herd in memory of her son Jack.
The new legislation introduces a statutory right to two weeks’ leave for parents who lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The new right comes into effect on the 6 of April 2020. It applies to the loss of a child on or after that date regardless of when they were born. It’s estimated the law will help support 10,000 parents each year.
At present, the legislation applies to England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Assembly will decide whether to adopt the measure there.
There are two components: two weeks leave (available regardless of length of service), and a statutory payment for those two weeks (which has qualifying conditions).
The leave must be taken either as a single 14-day block or two seven-day blocks, which can commence on any day of the week. It must be taken within 56 weeks of the event which triggers it, allowing leave to be taken to around the first anniversary.
The payment is termed Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay, or SPBP.
To qualify, the parent must have been employed for 26 weeks prior to the week in which the death or stillbirth occurs. They also need average weekly earnings of at least the Lower Earnings Limit for NI in the eight weeks prior to that week.
Payment is the same as the lower rate of SMP. Initially this will be £151.20, or 90 percent of the average weekly earnings if this is lower. Employers can reclaim this from HMRC in the same manner as SMP.
The parent must give notice within 28 days of the death or stillbirth (unless this isn’t practical) and make a self-declaration of entitlement. Employers don’t get to see the death certificate or any other official documentation.
I’ve referred to ‘parent’ above for convenience, but there’s a wider definition of who qualifies. This includes birth and adoptive parents but also ‘parents of fact’, which for example could be partners, grandparents or foster carers in some circumstances.
At present there’s little guidance available but this is promised for the start of the tax year and will give more detail on who qualifies, and the administrative processes employers need to follow.
Of course, the law only sets out a minimum entitlement. As an employer you can do more to support an employee through such a traumatic event; indeed, many employers already do so. Something to remember is that if you already provide paid time off, you’ll be able to reclaim SPBP in respect of two weeks of this.