What is the parental bereavement bill?

Posted: 03/08/2018

It was announced in May that the parental bereavement bill has made its way through the final stages of the Commons with almost unanimous support, meaning it has now jumped through all the hurdles that it needed to go through before becoming law (with now the last stage being that the private member’s bill, ie. a bill that affects the public, will undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords), having undergone its first meeting in the Lords on the 17th July, and its third reading on 24 July. However, what exactly does the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill entail, and who will it help? We take a look at what the potential is for this new breakthrough bill on bereavement leave.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill 2017-19

The bill, which is currently awaiting its Royal Assent prior to becoming statute is a bill that intends to introduce the right to paid bereavement leave after a parent has experienced the death of a child under the age of 18 or in full-time education. The bill wants to guarantee a legal entitlement of a minimum of two weeks leave, as well as pay for parents.

In terms of the reception it has received, it has been strongly supported by the Opposition, as well as the government, with the bill working alongside its initiative to further improve people’s rights and protections in the workplace.

What will the Parental Bereavement Bill mean for grieving parents?

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The current Employment Rights Act does not provide parents with the right to leave if they experienced the death of a child under 18. This is something that the introduction of the Parental Bereavement Bill would change.

At this moment in time, there is currently no legal requirements in place under the Employment Rights Act for employers to provide their employees with paid leave if they experience the bereavement of a child, which is what the proponents of the Parental Bereavement Bill want to change. As it stands, the only option available to grieving parents under the Employment Rights Act is the ability to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work, in order to make arrangements and so forth due to the death of a dependant. Under the new bill, the right to leave would be available to bereaved parents from the very first day of employment. Given that in a survey by the Rainbow Trust revealed that over half of parents who were in employment when their child passed away did not feel like they were given adequate time to cope with the grief of losing their child, and with over 50 per cent of parents taking at least one month leave, this bill, once it comes into force, will be very warmly welcomed.

The Bill wants to make it into law that no grieving parents will end up being paid less than 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings whilst they are on bereavement leave or the statutory weekly rate of £139.58. It would ultimately come down to what is the lesser amount for the person in question.  The right to pay would mean that it can be available for the grieving parents after they have been with the same employer for a minimum of  26 weeks.

It has been warmly received by children’s charities

A number of different charities have stated their delight with the recent news, and what it will mean for grieving families, who will be able to take time off work freely to make funeral plans without having to worry about losing money by taking leave.  In a statement on the children’s charity The Rainbow Trust, the director of care Anne Harris, said that the:

“Rainbow Trust is delighted that this bill has passed the final hurdle to becoming law. While many employers have a compassionate approach, we know that this is not always the case. Providing all employed parents with a minimum entitlement to paid time off work will remove one more issue on which to negotiate with their employer at the most difficult times. This law will help to reduce the stress on many families as they come to terms with the death of their child.

We look forward to seeing the full detail when the government responds to the recent consultation relating to the detail of the entitlement, and we hope that future legislation will provide similar entitlements for self-employed parents as well.”

Who created the bill?

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Will Quince and Kevin Hollinrake celebrate the Parental Bereavement Bill successfully passing through all its reading, with it now awaiting its Royal Assent before being passed into law.

The Parental Bereavement bill was brought forward by the Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake as a result of a consultation with his Conservative colleague, Will Quince, who had experienced the death of his son as a result of a stillbirth at full term in late 2014. The campaign for statutory time off work for bereaved parents who are in full-time employment has also been aided by the bereaved mother Lucy Herd, who experienced her own son dying in an accident.

Speaking about the bill, Kevin Hollinrake MP said that “this is such an important Bill for parents going through the most terrible of times. There is little any of us can do to help, but at least we can make sure that every employer will give them time to grieve.”