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Paid bereavement leave bill introduced

View profile for Anna Byford
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A bill was introduced to the House of Commons this week which, if passed, will entitle parents who lose a child to statutory paid leave and allow them to grieve away from the workplace.

No such right exists under the current law. The Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) gives employees a right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to take action which is necessary in certain prescribed circumstances, including in consequence of the death of a dependant.  Research conducted by CIPD suggests that generally employers will give employees five days’ paid leave to deal with emergencies, however this remains a discretionary practice. ACAS guidance published to assist employers managing bereavement in the workplace also recommends offering some paid leave but the fact remains that the law does not provide that level of support.

The current proposal is brought as a private member’s bill by Conservative MP, Kevin Hollinrake, but the sentiment is shared more widely. Backbencher Will Quince introduced a similar private members’ bill on 6 September 2016 with the aim of introducing two weeks’ paid leave to parents who have lost a child under the age of 18. He was not the first; a government e-petition along similar lines was signed by 25,143 people in November 2013 and by 167,316 people when it was reproduced on change.org. However Mr Hollinrake has the benefit of a conservative manifesto commitment to “enhance rights and protections in the workplace” and is therefore expected to have a greater chance of success.

The bill will not progress without challenge. There are a number of practical aspects to consider such as, how long should bereavement leave be paid for? How much should an employee be paid during bereavement leave? Will the government pick up any of that cost? Should this right be limited to employees only? After all, it’s not just employees who suffer bereavements. Will there be any qualifying criteria, such as length of service? Will bereavement leave only apply to the category of persons currently falling within the definition of dependant under the ERA or apply more widely?

The bill itself has not been published but it is due for its second reading debate on Friday 20 October 2017, watch this space…

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