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Bereavement Leave – Jack’s Law April 2020

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The introduction of Jack’s Law this April presents employers with an ideal opportunity to review their workplace bereavement leave policy.

What is Bereavement Leave?

When an employee’s family member or loved one passes away, the agreed time off granted by an employer is known as bereavement leave. Also known as compassionate leave, bereavement leave can be paid or unpaid at the discretion of the employer. This time off enables employees to not only begin the grieving process but also to complete important tasks such as funeral arrangements and official notifications.

Bereavement Leave Under Current Legislation

Other than Jack’s Law, there is no statutory bereavement leave in the UK and employees have no automatic right to paid time off.

Most businesses do allow their employees to take some compassionate leave when a loved one dies, but there is no set number of days. If the bereaved member of staff is off sick, or uses holiday leave to take time away from work, then they must get sick pay or holiday pay as normal.

Currently the law says that staff can take a reasonable number of unpaid days off following a dependant’s death.

A “dependant” includes a child, parent, spouse, partner or civil partner, or someone else your employee looks after, such as an elderly neighbour. It is up to the employer to decide what constitutes a “reasonable” amount of leave, with most allowing between three and five days.

Parental Bereavement Leave From 1 April 2020

Jack’s Law comes into effect from 1 April 2020. Under these new regulations for Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay, employees who lose a child aged under 18 will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory bereavement leave, irrespective of how long they have worked for you. Parents will be able to take this time off as one whole fortnight, or in two separate weeks, at any stage during the first 12 months after their child’s death.

Parental Bereavement Pay From 1 April 2020

Under Jack’s Law from 1 April 2020, parental bereavement pay is available to employees with at least 6 months’ continuous service and normal weekly earnings of at least the lower earnings limit. This is to be paid at the same rate as statutory paternity pay or shared parental pay. Employees who earn less than the lower earnings limit of £118 per week (limit subject to change from April 2020) will not be entitled.

In Memory of Jack Herd

Jack’s Law is named in memory of Cumbrian toddler Jack Herd who drowned in 2010. Jack’s mum, Lucy, began fighting for legal reform after Jack’s dad was allowed just three days off work following the tragedy, which included the day of the funeral.

According to Government statistics, it is estimated that the new legislation will help to support around 10,000 parents every year in the UK. In the case of stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, parents are entitled to maternity and paternity leave. Again, this is regardless of the length of time they have been employed by you.

Benefits of Having a Workplace Bereavement Policy

Jack’s Law has raised broader questions about bereavement in the workplace, and how employers should approach it.

As people handle grief in different ways it is important to be sensitive to this. Some staff may be too upset to concentrate on their job, whereas others might throw themselves into work as a way of coping with their loss.

Having a clear bereavement policy, written into your employee’s handbook, helps both the business and your staff. It not only shows your staff that you care about them but gives them a procedure to follow in the unfortunate case of a death. It then provides the business with a path to follow in the absence of wider bereavement leave legislation. For those companies without any workplace policies, they must ensure that they follow the current legislation and statutory requirements.

As a caring, considerate and supportive employer, you will want to balance your employees’ emotional needs with practical issues, such as how much time off and pay they can expect to receive.

Acas has some good advice on what should be contained within your policy, including useful guidance on how staff should report a bereavement and managing an employee’s return to work. Click here to visit.

Although adopting a bereavement policy would be best practice, either way, you must always aim to be as consistent as possible.

At HR:4UK we have many years’ experience in advising employers on bereavement at work. For more information on incorporating a bereavement policy into your employee handbook, and the HR implications of Jack’s Law, contact us today 01455 444 222 | [email protected]

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.