By Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser at CIPD.
The CIPD welcomes new legal right to paid parental bereavement leave – Jack’s LawLucy Herd, Jack’s Mother and prominent campaigner, and Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, discuss the importance of the new legislation and why bereaved parents at work need proper support.On 6 April this year, a new piece of legislation known as ‘Jack’s Law’ will come into effect. It entitles all employees* who lose a child under the age of 18, or whose child is stillborn from 24 weeks of pregnancy, to a statutory minimum of two weeks’ leave.Lucy says….Over the years, I’ve learnt first-hand the ways grief can impact upon people and their productivity. Bereaved parents are more likely to discover effective strategies to cope with grief if they’re granted time and space when it’s most needed.Showing compassion and understanding to a bereaved employee is an important part of their healing. What we must remember is that grief isn’t linear. A bereaved employee won’t just get over the death after a few weeks. Instead, they must learn to adjust to a ‘new normal’. There will be anniversaries and special days which may affect a grieving employee, and these should be recognised and respected over the years. Maintaining open communication is key. Grief is an ongoing process, but if employers provide support and compassion within the workplace, the bereaved employee will feel better equipped to return to work and continue their career. The need for paid parental bereavement leave is vitally important for a bereaved employee. Jack’s Law, we hope, will help future parents who tragically experience the death of a child.Claire says….The CIPD fully supports the introduction of ‘Jack’s Law’ and we want to raise awareness among people professionals and organisations of this important change in law. We also want to congratulate Lucy in her successful and brave campaign work in this area, which will make such a difference to so many people.Suffering the loss of a child is a devastating experience, and bereaved parents should be treated with the utmost compassion and support in the workplace.Bereaved parents will need time to come to terms with what has happened, and will be highly unlikely to be able to perform well at work if they are forced to return too quickly. That’s why it’s so vital organisations think of the support they can give to bereaved parents beyond the two-week period laid out in this new legislation. How employees are treated by their employer is likely to have a significant impact on how they handle the bereavement, and how they feel towards their organisation and their work in general going forward.Bereavement policyIt’s a good idea for your workplace to have a policy that covers bereavement absence and pay, to keep things clear. A policy can also help clarify anything offered at work that’s more than what’s legally required. Acas provides an example of a policy here.Acknowledge the bereavement Acknowledge the bereavement that the employee has experienced. They may or may not want to talk about the situation in detail, but acknowledging that it has happened is important.Discuss what they would like communicatedBy law, an employee has the right to keep their bereavement private from work colleagues. It can be a good idea for the employer to ask their employee what, if anything, they would like their work colleagues to know about the bereavement.Build supportive culturesTrain your line managers to have open and sensitive conversations and to explore what extra support would be helpful to affected employees. Different cultures respond to death in significantly different ways. Line managers should check whether the employee’s religion or culture requires them to observe any particular practices or make special arrangementsFlexibility is keyIn particular, it might be helpful to support bereaved parents through the provision of a phased return to work and flexible working provisions.Signpost to supportive services, organisations and charitiesMany businesses will have counselling, occupational health and employee assistance programmes available to support their people, and they should highlight these to those experiencing bereavement. They should also signpost to relevant organisations and charities that can support bereaved working parents; this will be particularly important for smaller businesses with limited resources (below we have included some further sources of support).Sources of information and supportGov.uk press release: UK set to introduce ‘Jack’s Law’ – new legal right to paid parental bereavement leave
Acas guidance on time off for bereavement
Sands (Stillbirth & neonatal death charity)
Child Bereavement UK
National Bereavement Alliance
*The right to Parental Bereavement Leave (PBL) will apply to all employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth (from 24 weeks of pregnancy), irrespective of how long they have been with their employer (the leave is a ‘day-one’ employment right).
Parents with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer and weekly average earnings over the lower earning limit (£118 per week for 2019 to 2020) will also be entitled to Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP), paid at the statutory rate of £148.68 per week (for 2019 to 2020), or 90% of average weekly earnings where this is lower.SPBP will be administered by employers in the same way as existing family-related statutory payments such as Statutory Paternity Pay.
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