A new workplace right to leave for bereaved parents has been given formal approval but will not come into force until 2020, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has confirmed.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 (www.legislation.gov.uk) was given Royal Assent on 13 September 2018 and means that, once it is brought into force, employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will receive two weeks’ leave and will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

These provisions will also apply to those who suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The Government-backed proposal was introduced to Parliament in July 2017 as a Private Member’s Bill by Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton.

He said: “Losing a child is the most dreadful and unimaginable experience that any parent could suffer and it is right that grieving parents will now be given time to start to come to terms with their loss.”

Francine Bates, Chief Executive of The Lullaby Trust, welcomed the announcement as a big step forward in recognising the needs of bereaved families. It would, she went on, help to ensure that parents are not unduly pressurised to return to work immediately following the death of their child.

Currently, there are no legal requirements for employers to give paid leave to bereaved parents although employees do have a right to take a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off work to make arrangements following the death of a dependent.

Comment from Peninsula Associate Director Kate Palmer

The introduction of paid parental bereavement leave may be some time away but employers should consider the impact this would have upon their business and existing company policies.

Losing a child is an incredibly challenging time for an employee and could potentially lead to the development of mental ill health, such as depression. By openly maintaining a strong company policy to assist employees in this situation, employers can help maintain positive workforce morale and encourage increased retention levels.

This could also trigger additional conversation about bereavement leave in other circumstances, such as the death of a parent, grandparent or other loved one, and the current offerings in these areas.

Employers should bear in mind that maintaining strong employee wellbeing can be crucial to the ongoing success of an organisation and take steps to assure their workforce that individual needs will be taken into account should devastating situations like this occur.

Last reviewed 18 September 2018