For too long the parental bereavement leave given to employees has been reliant on the kindness of their employers. But from 6th April 2020, this is all to change.
Implemented from 6th April 2020 onward, with Royal Assent, The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay act has amended The Employment Rights Act of 1996. Under the newly added section 80E (the Parental Bereavement Act), chapter 4 of the Employment Rights Act, employees are granted the right to at least 2 working weeks leave which is to be claimed within 56 weeks of the child or baby’s death along with a fraction of their pay provided they are eligible.
Naturally to be eligible for these rights there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled.
Firstly, the employee in question must be employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks before the death or stillbirth. The employee must identify as either the child (under 18) or baby’s parent, this could be the biological or adoptive parent, or as the parent of a child born to a surrogate. Employees may be still eligible if the deceased child had resided with them for at least 4 weeks during which the employee and his partner had day to day responsibility for the child or baby’s care.
However, biological parents of the child or baby will not qualify as being eligible for Parental Bereavement Leave and Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay after an adoption or parental order was made, unless there was a contact order in place.
Should an employee be eligible, under subsection 2b of the act employees are granted a leave of at least two working weeks (which can be taken after other statutory leaves should it be the case). For example, if a person was working on Fridays only, then he would be given at least two Fridays off work as that would make up two working weeks for him. Furthermore, under the regulations of subsection 2b an employee may also receive £151.20 or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower per week.
Despite the significant help this act can give employees in bereavement, for small businesses with few employees which struggle just to survive, this act is financially detrimental and will impact them greatly. A small business cannot afford to lose employees as it may affect their reputation for service. This means that during the two weeks leave the business may be forced to employ another person for a short period, along with paying at least £151.20 per week for their bereaved employee. This could be too costly for some businesses and could lead to a downward spiral of financial ruin.
Large businesses deal in thousands of employees, and millions of pounds, so surely this act is insignificant for them. However, even for large businesses this act could still be deleterious depending on the nature of the large business and which employee takes this leave. For example, take the aviation industry which is worth approximately 2.7 trillion pounds and includes huge airline businesses. During winter many airlines struggle as people tend to fly less, so every rare flight full of passengers is critical for an airline’s survival. To compensate for their winter losses, airlines fly countless flights in the summer which is vital for their profit margin. As a result pilots are crucial during this time to sustain the significant number of flights. However, should a primary pilot suddenly take two weeks leave due to child bereavement, this can cause great complications as everything is meticulously planned in an airline. The airline would be required to supply another primary pilot immediately, which would be both troublesome and expensive for the airline, as they would have to find a pilot, fly him to the location of the plane, and pay him, at least 3 hours before the original taking off time of the plane. Should an airline fail to do this in time, they may be forced to cancel the flight-which opens the door to countless other problems the airline may have to face, ranging from lawsuits, to refunds, to potentially destroying the airline’s reputation for reliability. And all this from the mere two week leave of a single pilot.
In conclusion, this act is like the sewing pin of a surgeon. On one hand, it attempts to sew the gaping hole in in the heart of a parent (the employee) from the loss of a child. But on the other hand, this pin pokes businesses, large and small, causing them to draw blood, each drop more fatal than the last.