Employed parents who lose a child will have the right to two weeks’ paid leave to allow them time to grieve, the government has announced.
The proposed new law will support those whose child dies when under the age of 18. Under the Employment Rights Act employees only have a day-one right to take a 'reasonable' amount of unpaid time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, including making arrangements following a death. As a result what constitutes a 'reasonable' period varies between workplaces.
Kevin Hollinrake, a Conservative MP and sponsor of the bill, said this is a concern of the people he represents. “Sadly I have had constituents who have gone through this dreadful experience, and while some parents prefer to carry on working others need time off,” he said. “This new law will give employed parents a legal right to two weeks’ paid leave, giving them that all-important time and space away from work to grieve at such a desperately sad time.”
Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD, said that while the institute supports the idea, employers need to look at how to help bereaved parents beyond the two-week period.
“CIPD members overwhelmingly support the idea of paid statutory bereavement leave for parents who have lost a child,” he said. “Our research shows many employers already offer their staff paid bereavement leave. This new law will build on this so all bereaved parents of children under the age of 18 will have the reassurance of knowing they don’t have to worry about work while they grieve for loved ones in the immediate aftermath of such a tragedy.
“Employers that want to support staff who have suffered a bereavement also need to consider how grief affects people in the longer term; recognising that losing a loved one creates huge turmoil in people’s lives.”
He suggested the kinds of support that organisations could offer. “Providing flexible working and access to counselling or employee assistance programmes, and ensuring managers are understanding and supportive, can help people to adapt or manage their work when they are struggling to cope,” he said. “This is relevant in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy as well as around difficult times of the year or events that might bring painful reminders of their loss.”
The bill’s second reading will be on 20 October, with the aim of it becoming law in 2020.