From 2020, parents and primary carers will be entitled to two weeks of paid bereavement leave in the event that their child dies.
The government is introducing the policy under the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act, with Personnel Today noting that the people eligible to take paid leave if they suffer the loss of a child has been widened following a public consultation.
The legislation will now cover parents, adopters, foster parents, guardians and other close family or friends who have been closely involved in the care of the child in the absence of their parents.
As a result, parents or carers will soon be entitled to a minimum of two weeks’ paid leave if they lose a child who is under 18 years old, or if they suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The two weeks of leave doesn’t need to be taken immediately, or in one block.
It can be split into two blocks of one week each, or taken altogether, and those affected will be eligible to take the time off at any time in the 56 weeks following a child’s death. The government has also stated that parents should be able to take this leave as and when they need it, which means notice requirements will be flexible and it can be taken without prior notice.
Chief executive of the Lullaby Trust charity Francine Bates said that her organisation is pleased that the government has widened the bereavement leave entitlement beyond parents.
“Losing a baby or child is a devastating experience for all the family and extending the provisions of the act to adopters, foster carers, guardians and kinship carers is very important,” she stated.
Ms Bates added: “Offering time and flexibility to bereaved families at a time that best suits them is also crucial in supporting them through their journey.”
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst told Kent Online that while the government has stipulated a minimum of two weeks’ leave, they would like to encourage employers to look at what they can offer beyond the statutory minimum to “make sure they are looking at the needs of their employee and taking into account the trauma that they go through when they lose a child”.
Ms Tolhurst added that they are “looking for employers to act compassionately and do more”.
Arranging the funeral is likely to be one of the biggest challenges for families in this position in the initial days and weeks after a child’s death. There are many options available, including direct cremation.
This could be a suitable option for families who don’t want to have a large funeral service, but who would like to honour their child in another way at a time and place that suits them and pays tribute to their memory.
Ms Tolhurst also said that the new legislation was a recognition that people deal with the loss of a child in different ways.
“It is important that this new law is designed so that people are given the space and respect to grieve in their own way,” she said.