Introduction of Statutory Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay
10 August 2021
Bereavement continues to be one of the most prevalent factors affecting employees’ performance at work. Research cited by Cruse Bereavement Care highlights that at any time, one in ten employees are likely to be affected by bereavement. It is always an extremely emotive issue and one that employers should approach with additional sensitivity. This will mitigate detrimental impacts on both the individual employee and indeed the organisation.
Employers in Northern Ireland should be cognisant of forthcoming legislation in respect of Statutory Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay (“SPBLP”). On 1 June 2021, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill was introduced in the Northern Ireland Assembly. This legislation is set to mirror the related provisions that apply currently in Great Britain. The introduction of SPBLP will offer working parents in Northern Ireland the ability to take paid leave when a child dies, subject to engaging certain eligibility requirements.
Whilst statutory leave entitlements in Northern Ireland generally mirror those in Great Britain; as there was no functioning Assembly at the time the legislation was put forward in GB, Northern Ireland diverted from the prevailing legislative framework.
The Department for the Economy thereafter initiated a public consultation on the matter in June 2020. The response was published where it was stated that there was “unanimity” amongst respondents that the introduction of Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay was “the right thing to do”. As a result, the Department for the Economy set out its intention to proceed with the introduction of the Bill in Northern Ireland.
In relation to the key provisions of the legislation, a bereaved parent who wishes to take parental bereavement leave following the death of a child must give notice to their employer. The notice does not need to be in writing but must specify:
- the date of the child’s death;
- the date the period of leave is to commence; and
- whether the period of leave is to last one or two weeks’ (the weeks do not need to be taken consecutively).
In terms of pay, employees taking statutory parental bereavement leave are not entitled to their normal salary during this period, however, they will typically be entitled to a statutory payment at a rate set by the government each year.
Employers should keep an eye on the progress of the Bill through the Assembly. It is hoped that the legislation will come into effect by April 2022, however, this timescale may be subject to change.
In the interim, employers may wish to prepare for the inevitable legislative change by reviewing their existing policies in relation to compassionate leave. Indeed, there are many employers that are providing for leave and pay beyond the statutory minimum that the legislation seeks to introduce. In recent months, our office has assisted a number of employers to include a policy of Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay as part of their Staff Handbook, in anticipation of the forthcoming changes.
If you require any assistance in relation to drafting these policies or have any associated queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Employment Law team at MKB Law.