UK set to introduce 'Jack's Law' - new legal right to paid paternal bereavement leave

    The Government announced in January that The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 2018 was passed by Royal Assent and is expected to come into force in April 2020.

    The is the most generous offer on parental bereavement pay and leave in the world. It'll give all employed parents the right to two weeks leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks pregnancy. This is available for up to 56 weeks.

    Parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria. Parents will be able to take the leave as either a single block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each taken at different times across the first year after their child's death. This means they can match their leave to the times they need it most, which could be in the early days or over the first anniversary.

    As employers you'll need to update or implement a bereavement policy. The new policy should be communicated so your people and leaders are aware of the new rights.

    Things to be aware of:

    • the right to bereavement leave, and pay is on top of the existing right to unpaid time off to care for dependants, which gives a right to leave in the immediate aftermath of a loss of a dependant;
    • employees suffering prolonged grief may qualify as disabled persons under the Equality Act, such that this may necessitate reasonable adjustments;
    • you may receive requests for additional time off beyond two weeks to observe religious bereavement;
    • requirements (such as funeral rite) should not simply be discounted but considered in line with the requirements of the Equality Act; and
    • data regarding the bereavement will need to be processed and retained in line with your privacy notices and policies.

    UK Government consults on proposals to reform family related leave and pay

    Last year the Government launched a series of separate consultations on its proposals to reform family-related leave and pay, which included:

    • reforming current family-related leave and pay entitlements;
    • introducing neonatal leave and pay;
    • introducing a new duty on large employers to publish their family-friendly and flexible working policies;
    • questioning whether job adverts should indicate whether the job role could be worked flexibly; and
    • reviewing the effectiveness of the shared parental leave and pay schemes.

    The consultations were part of the second phase of measures proposed by the Government to implement The Good Work Plan, their response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.

    Reform of family related leave and pay entitlements

    The consultation was seeking views on proposals to reform the current rights in relation to maternity, paternity, shared parental leave and pay, as well as unpaid parental leave.

    One option proposed by the consultation was to move to a new single model for family-related leave, with set periods of 'transferable' and 'non-transferable' leave. The consultation acknowledges that this approach would require a significant and sustained investment of resources but going forward it could provide a preferable alternative to piecemeal amendments, which may unintentionally risk undermining the underlying policy objectives of individual leave and pay entitlements.

    Introduction of Neonatal Leave and Pay

    The Government consulted on the introduction of Neonatal Leave and Pay for parents of babies who require a minimum of two conintuous weeks in neonatal care, immediately after birth.

    Under the new proposals, parents (regardless of their length of service) would be entitled to one week of neonatal leave and pay for each week that their baby requires to be in neonatal care, up to a maximum number of weeks (with views being sought on what this maximum should be).

    It's proposed that neonatal leave would be available in addition to existing rights to time off for family-related leave and would be taken at the end of a father/partner's paternity leave and at the end of a mother's maternity leave.

    Introducing duty for large employers to publish their family-related leave and pay policies

    The Government was also consulting on whether large employers (250+ employees) should be required to publish their family-related leave and pay policies and flexible working policies on their website, as well as potentially on a new facility on the Gender Pay Gap Reporting Portal.

    Flexible working

    A further question the Government asked as part of the consultation was if job adverts should indicate whether the job role can be worked flexibly and if so, should this data also have a requirement to be recorded via the Gender Pay Gap Reporting Portal. Separately, a Private Members Bill has been introduced in Parliament seeking employers to offer flexible working in employment contracts and to advertise vacancies as suitable for flexible working unless certain other conditions are met.

    Review of the Shared Parental Leave system

    Separately from the consultation, the Government reviewed the effectiveness of the Shared Parental Leave and Pay schemes, this review was due to be completed by the end of 2019. The Government will now decide whether any steps need to be taken to amend the existing system.