Tessa Robinson: Paid parental bereavement leave continues legislative journey

Tessa Robinson

On 8 June 2018, The Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) published its response to the government’s consultation on parental bereavement leave. The response will help inform the government as it considers whether grieving parents should be granted the legal right to paid bereavement leave.

In March 2018, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a consultation on parental bereavement leave, which sought views on the draft Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill.

The loss of a child is extremely traumatic, and many people suffer grief in different ways. Managing that grief in the workplace can be extremely difficult for employees and employers alike, and can seriously affect performance and the parent’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

At present, there is no specific legal entitlement to paid time off in these circumstances, forcing bereaved parents to either return to work or take a period of sick or annual leave. If approved, the bill would create a statutory right for employed parents to take a minimum of two weeks of parental bereavement leave within a period of at least 56 days, beginning with the date of the death of a child.

I was honoured to be included on the working party that developed the ELA’s response to the government’s consultation.

The response raised several key points for the government to consider, including broadening the definition of ‘bereaved parent’ to include those who have day-to-day care of the child, but who are not its biological parents; highlighting concerns that the current draft bill contains no right to statutory pay if parents opted to take the leave as days rather than weeks, which could amount to indirect religious discrimination; and proposing that the leave can be taken at any time within 52 weeks of the death of the child.

The bill has now achieved Royal Assent. The Lords noted that the speed of its assent was admirable, but that it had achieved Royal Assent without the government’s response being available for review and comment, as they had hoped.

They did, however, iterate the bill’s importance and state that, when published, any recommendations should be carefully considered.

I am therefore hopeful that BEIS will carefully consider the points raised in the ELA’s response, and I look forward to the publication of the government’s response.

Tessa Robinson is a solicitor at Furley Page