Can I take parental leave when my child dies?
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The loss of a child can be truly devastating to their family. Changes to employment law – known as the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act – seek to alleviate some of the distress parents go through by increasing their minimum leave entitlement following the death of a child.
What is parental bereavement leave?
Parental bereavement leave is time off employees can take in the UK after the death of a child under 18. It gives eligible parents a right to take two weeks away from work if they are an employee, and to receive statutory pay for this period.
The rules came into force on 6 April 2020, when the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations gave parents a legal right to two weeks paid leave following:
- The loss of a child aged under 18
- A stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy
- An abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The idea behind the parental bereavement leave policy is to recognise the specific pains of losing a child and the extra time you may need to come to terms with a loss like this.
Who is eligible for parental bereavement leave in the UK?
People who lose a child under 18, or suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks, may be eligible for parental bereavement leave.
This right applies not only to biological parents and includes:
- Mothers and fathers
- Step-parents, where they live with the child as part of a family unit
- Mothers whose child has been adopted, but was allowed contact with the child via court order
- Adoptive parents – if the child was living with them when they died
- People who lived with the child and took responsibility for them for at least four weeks before they died. This might apply to some grandparents or other types of carers
- Those who are due to become parents through surrogacy.
Parents must be classed as employees to benefit from the bereavement leave regulations. Self-employed parents and those classed as workers – where employment is defined on a more casual basis – are not entitled to statutory parental bereavement leave. They may, however, receive statutory pay for the time they take off.
Employees are entitled to take parental bereavement leave from their first day of employment, but may not receive pay.
How much does parental bereavement leave pay?
Statutory parental bereavement pay is worth £151.97 a week or 90% of your weekly earnings – whichever is lower. This is paid in the same way as your normal wages and tax is deducted in a similar way.
You will only be paid for parental bereavement leave if you have been employed for at least 26 weeks (six months) at the date of your child’s death.
Pay is usually set at the same rate as statutory maternity or paternity pay per week, so could be higher than £151.97 per week if your employment contract is more generous.
The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act
Known as Jack’s law, the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act is a piece of 2018 legislation that sought to create a statutory entitlement to time off work for bereaved parents.
The provisions underline the importance of compassion from employers to grieving parents.
Following 23-month-old Jack Herd’s tragic death by drowning in the family pond in 2010, his father was forced to return to work after only three days off. At the time, the law only guaranteed a minimum of three days’ bereavement leave for parents – including the day of the funeral.
Jack’s mother, Lucy Herd, campaigned tirelessly for change, securing new regulations that provide a right to two weeks of paid parental bereavement leave in 2018.
Importantly, this allowance can be taken in one two-week block, or two one-week blocks. Leave may be taken at any point in the first 56 weeks after the child’s death, so that painful occasions like the first anniversary of the death are covered. If more than one child dies, parents receive two weeks’ leave for each child.
What is a statutory bereavement award?
The statutory bereavement award is a type of fixed compensation that may be paid to parents when a child aged under 18 dies due to negligence – for example, through inadequate medical care.
Since May 2020, the parental bereavement award has been set at £15,120 – a sum that is paid once and shared by parents.
Can I claim for damages if my child dies?
While no money can ever compensate for the loss, sometimes the process of bringing a claim can answer questions about what happened and why. Compensation can also help if there is a financial burden – so you may decide to pursue a claim beyond the statutory bereavement award.
When a child dies, there is a claim for their pain and suffering, and any financial losses. If someone was dependent upon the child, for example, if the child was their carer, there may also be a claim for the loss of their financial or caring contribution.
Stillbirth negligence claims
A stillbirth caused by negligence in pregnancy or birth can be the subject of a specific legal claim.
In a successful claim, you might get damages for pain and suffering, both physical and mental. This includes the – or the loss of what you may otherwise have gained.
You can also claim for counselling, lost earnings, funeral costs and things you bought for your stillborn baby, such as their pram.
Learn more about stillbirth claims by visiting our stillbirth page.
Parental bereavement leave: Key questions
Can you take parental bereavement leave and maternity leave?
You can take both maternity leave and parental bereavement leave when a child is stillborn or dies shortly after birth. Stillbirth is defined as the death of an unborn baby after the end of a pregnancy’s 24th week. This gives mothers the right to 52 weeks’ leave, and to have their job role kept open, plus 39 weeks’ worth of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).
Do you get paternity leave if your baby is stillborn?
Fathers can take paternity leave following a stillbirth – alongside parental bereavement leave, you can often take four weeks’ leave in total.
You don’t have to take parental bereavement leave straight after your maternity or paternity leave. You can use this any time in the first 56 weeks after your child passes and can split parental bereavement leave into two week-long periods if you wish.
You can also take parental bereavement leave in between periods of shared parental leave you and your partner have booked.
When can an abortion take place after 24 weeks?
An abortion can take place after 24 weeks in the UK only in specific cases, such as if there’s a risk to the mother’s life or if the baby is likely to be born with a severe disability. Before 24 weeks, parental bereavement leave entitlement does not apply, but you may be able to take leave after a late-stage abortion.
How do I claim parental bereavement pay?
To claim parental bereavement leave after your child dies, give your employer notice before you would normally start work on the first day you’d normally work that week. If you normally work 9am until 6pm, Monday to Friday, you’d need to notify your employer before 9am on Monday.
You should also let them know:
- The date your child died
- Whether you plan to take one week’s leave or two.
If you decide to take parental bereavement leave nine weeks or more after your child dies, you must give your employer a week’s notice.