Parental Bereavement Leave – Doing the right thing, the right way.LexLeyton
Lucy Herd lost her son Jack in a tragic accident in 2010. After her husband returned to work after only 3 days, Lucy spent the next ten years campaigning for a right for all parents to have the legal right to take time off when they lose a child.
A decade of campaigning and Lucy’s establishment of Jack’s Rainbow charity to fight for change, finally led to success when in April 2020, the UK government introduced the legal right to Parental Bereavement leave. It means that those parents who lose a child aged under 18 or a baby after 24 weeks gestation, have a legal right to two weeks’ statutory leave.
This right is one that no employee ever wants to have to access, but sadly the following statistics from the Child Bereavement Trust show the extent of the tragedies that befall employees and colleagues every day:
In 2017 in the UK*:
- 3200 babies were stillborn – that’s around 9 babies every day
- 6,608 babies and children under 5 died – that’s more than 18 every day
- 869 school aged children (5-16 year-olds) died
- 7653 babies, children and young people (under the age of 18) died – that’s 21 tragic losses, every single day
*Source: Child Bereavement UK: Office for National Statistics; National Records of Scotland; Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
It’s at the most challenging times that employees face, empathetic and considerate leaders, managers and companies reach out and enable support for their workforce. Being proactive and upfront about what support you will provide to an employee is not just good practice but also demonstrates that you have considered the range of potential challenges that your employees may have to face, including one of the most significant and terrible events that could ever happen to a parent.
Taking a holistic approach to the development and communication of your key employee wellbeing and support policies will enable your business to develop a coherent and effective framework to help you manage your support and response to employee personal challenges, and may assist in reducing absence and increasing staff retention – having worked in HR, I know that how you treat an employee during a personal crisis can be the ‘glue’ that retains their loyalty to you as an employee, irrespective of their pay or terms and conditions. No one knows how they will react in such terrible circumstances but doing what you can to reduce an employee’s stress and anxiety about their absence from and return to the workplace is not just the right thing to do for them as human being, it is the right thing to do for your business.
A Parental Bereavement Leave Policy is quite different to a Compassionate Leave Policy. Statutory Bereavement leave has two aspects : a right to two weeks’ statutory leave for all employees and a right to two weeks paid statutory leave if your employee has 26 weeks’ service and their pay meets the lower earnings limit. The current statutory rates is statutory pay £151.20.
Having a Parental Bereavement Leave Policy in place so that everyone knows what to do and how you will support your employee is vital to make things as simple as possible for the employee and employer at such a stressful time and to avoid clumsy communications or decisions. A 2018 survey by Sands, consulting over 2,500 bereaved parents, found that only 1 in 5 parents had been offered or given any support by their employer on their return to work after the death of their baby. Without a Parental Bereavement Leave Policy to provide a necessary framework you might well get right should you be faced with having to support an employee at such an upsetting and challenging time, but having a clear policy is the best way to ensure will get it right from the start.