The Government has announced that a new law entitling parents who suffer the loss of a child or a stillbirth to two weeks’ paid leave from work is coming into force in April.
The new regulations will be known as Jack’s Law[i] in memory of Jack Herd, whose mother Lucy has been campaigning on the issue since her 23-month-old son Jack drowned in a pond in 2010 and she discovered his father could take only three days’ paid leave.
Around 7,500 child deaths or stillbirths occur in the UK every year. The Government estimates that this new entitlement will help to support around 10,000 parents a year.[ii]
Jo Stubbs, XpertHR’s global head of content product strategy, says,
“When it comes to statutory rights, there is currently little provision in relation to bereavement. It’s limited to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off under the time off for dependants legislation – and this is specifically to take any ‘necessary action’ when a dependant dies. Obviously many organisations do offer paid bereavement leave, but our research[iii] has found that for the closest relationships – including children, partners, parents and siblings – the median entitlement is five days. This means the majority of employers will need to amend their policies regarding paid time off in light of the new law.
“At the same time employers may wish to look at the general support they provide for bereaved employees. While the loss of child is thankfully relatively rare, the death of someone close such as a parent or partner is something that most employees will experience at some time during their working lives. Supporting bereaved employees is therefore something that all HR professionals and line managers need to be prepared for.”
Bereavement can have devastating emotional, physical and practical effects, which can significantly affect employees’ attendance and performance at work. Balancing the need for consistent corporate policies with the flexibility to cater for the wide range of circumstances and differing impacts of bereavement can be difficult.
To help, XpertHR provides practical guidance (How to support a bereaved employee) highlighting the steps employers can take to support grieving employees in both the short and the long term. The guide covers symptoms of grief, immediate communication with bereaved employees, time off, ongoing support and bereaved employees’ return to work.
It also explains the external support services that employers may consider providing, often through an EAP or group insurance, and provides examples of charities that offer help for bereaved people, their friends, colleagues and employers.
XpertHR offers the following guidance:
· Ensure that managers and HR teams are mindful of the potential immediate and long-term effects of grief.
· Limit initial conversations with a bereaved employee to offering condolences and addressing immediate matters, and leave detailed discussions until a later date.
· Take into account the employee’s particular circumstances and recognise that they may need additional time off.
· Make sure bereaved employees are aware of any access they have to external support services, for example through your organisation’s EAP or group insurance.
· Consider any temporary changes a bereaved employee may need to their hours or role to enable them to return to work.
· Be aware that bereavement can have a long-lasting impact and that a bereaved employee may need ongoing flexibility and support.
For further guidance see the How to support a bereaved employee guide.
For more information on XpertHR visit: www.xperthr.co.uk