Charities supporting those experiencing bereavement may be asked what rights an individual has to time off work when someone close to them dies. The answer can be complicated due to the fact that different rights arise under different pieces of legislation.
Time off for dependants
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, an employee is entitled ‘to take a reasonable amount of time off during working hours in order to take action which is necessary for the consequence of the death of a dependant’. A ‘dependant’ for these purposes means the employee’s spouse or civil partner, child, parent, or someone living in the employee’s household (other than an employee, tenant, lodger, or boarder).
There is no statutory right to payment during such time off, although employers may agree to pay employees in those circumstances. Indeed, some employment contracts and compassionate leave/bereavement policies give employees a right to paid time off where they experience bereavement.
Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay
The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 came into force on 18 January 2020. It added new sections to existing legislation in order to give employed parents who lose a child the right to up to two weeks’ parental bereavement leave (PBL) in respect of which they can claim statutory bereavement pay (SPBP), subject to certain eligibility criteria.
The details of the rights summarised above are set out in the Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 and Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020 which apply with effect from 06 April 2020.
An employee has the right to take PBL following the death of a child if their parental relationship falls within one of several categories and they comply with certain notice requirements. The notice, which does not have to be in writing, must specify (a) the date of the child’s death; (b) the date upon which the employee wants any PBL to begin; and (c) how long the PBL will last. PBL can be one or two weeks long and may be taken at any time within the period of 56 weeks beginning with the date of the child’s death. If an employee decides to take two weeks’ PBL, the weeks do not have to be taken consecutively.
A child for PBL purposes is a person under the age of 18, including a child stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Unlike other employment law rights, there is no qualifying period for PBL; it is a ‘day one’ right and, as such, applies from the first day of an employee’s employment.
The conditions for entitlement to SPBP are not quite the same as those for PBL, but there is considerable overlap. One of the key differences in conditions for entitlement is that there is a qualifying period for SPBP; the individual must have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks ending with the week immediately before the one in which the child dies.
To be eligible for SPBP, an individual’s normal weekly earnings with their employer for the period of eight weeks ending with the week immediately before the one in which the child dies must not be less than the ‘lower earnings limit’ (which is currently £120 but will rise to £123 on 06 April 2022). The weekly rate of SPBP is the lower of £151.97 or 90% of the employee’s normal weekly earnings (although it will rise to the lower of £156.66 or 90% of the employee’s normal weekly earnings on 03 April 2022).
Acas bereavement advice
The Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (Acas) has published some useful guidance on handling bereavement at work.
As well as helping employees to understand their legal rights to time off work when someone close to them dies (as outlined above), the Acas guidance includes helpful, practical advice for both employers and employees on what to do after a death. It also explains the benefits of having in place a policy that covers time off and pay for bereavement. Whilst people have different experiences of and reactions to bereavement (such that a rigid, formulaic approach would not be appropriate), having in place a policy that informs staff of their rights to time off and pay helps managers to support them and can provide a very useful framework in the most difficult and sensitive of situations.
The Acas guidance may be a useful resource to charities supporting those experiencing bereavement. It is also something that charities should take into account as employers in their own right.
How can Nelsons help
For further information in relation to the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Peter or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online enquiry form.Contact us