Tegan Osborne-Brown
Posted on 3 Nov 2021

Bereavement Bill: Rights of Bereaved Parents and Proposals for Change

The Miscarriage Association reports that about a quarter of a million people each year in the UK miscarry while one in every 250 pregnancies ended in a stillbirth in 2018. The new Bereavement Leave and Pay (Stillborn and Miscarried Babies) Bill (the Bill) recently had its first reading in Parliament and is due for its second reading in the House of Commons on 22 February 2022. In this article, we look at the current rights of bereaved parents and what the bill seeks to change.

Rights of Bereaved Parents at Work

Bereavement leave following a stillbirth after 24 weeks is already a day one right. Two weeks' leave can be taken at any time up to 56 weeks from the stillbirth. Employees, agency and zero hours workers are entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay for up to two weeks if:

  • they have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks by the week immediately before the stillbirth; and
  • they earn at least £120 per week before tax in the 8 weeks/two months before the week in which the baby was stillborn.

However, those suffering miscarriage or stillbirth before the end of the 24th week of pregnancy are not currently entitled to bereavement leave or maternity leave. Maternity Action highlights that employees experiencing miscarriage or stillbirth (and their partners) may alternatively ask an employer for compassionate leave, annual leave or a period of unpaid leave. Employees are also entitled to take sick leave if they are not well enough to work.

Greater rights in respect of bereavement leave have been the subject of consistent lobbying in recent years. In particular, MP Sarah Owen has called for better legal rights. In response to this, the Bill seeks to extend entitlement to parental bereavement leave and pay to parents of babies miscarried or stillborn during early pregnancy, before the 24 week threshold.

What do employers need to consider?

It is a good idea to draft a clear parental leave policy, which sets out not only the minimum legal entitlement but, if applicable, any more generous company entitlement. You should also keep an eye on the progress of the Bill, as the law on parental bereavement leave may well change in the near future. Bereavement training for management staff and Human Resources is also available.

This article is for general information only and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you have any questions relating to your particular circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice.