The Parental and Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations, known as Jack’s Law in memory of Jack Herd whose mother Lucy campaigned tirelessly on the issue, is set to take effect from 6th April 2020.

Currently there is no legal obligation for employers to give paid bereavement leave, the Employment Rights act 1996 only gives the legal right for employees to take unpaid ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with an emergency and this would include the death of a child.

The new Act gives all employed parents, and adults with parental responsibility, who have suffered the loss of a child under the age of 18 a ‘day one’ right to unpaid time off.  Employees with continuous employment of at least 26 weeks before the child’s death are eligible for paid parental bereavement leave.  The Act also applies to a parent who suffers a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The entitlement is to two weeks’ leave; this can be taken either as on block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of one week each.  This leave must be taken within 56 weeks of the date of the child’s death.

Employers may want to consider offering additional paid or unpaid leave but should bear in mind that some employees may not be able to take unpaid leave.

The legislation also offers protection from loss of employment due to absence from work after the death of a child and it makes the UK one of a very few countries to offer such support and the first of offer two weeks’ leave.

Female employees will continue to be entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave which includes a mother who loses a child after it is born.  Employers must bear in mind differing bereavement traditions and refusing to allow an employee to observe these traditions could amount to discrimination.  Employers should also observe the Data Protection Act 2018 which includes an employee’s right to keep details of their child’s death confidential.  The death of a child can lead to wider health issues such as depression, anxiety or PTSD which could constitute a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and employers should offer reasonable adjustments where needed.