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Employers are not currently required to give paid leave to grieving parents. Section 57A(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 gives employees the right to take a reasonable amount of time off to take action which is necessary for dependants – for example, if they are ill or injured – and Section 57A(1)(c) of the Act specifically refers to action which is necessary 'in consequence of the death of a dependant'.
In a 2004 case (Forster v Cartwright Black), the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that Section 57A(1)(c) does not cover sickness absence due to grief. The relevant wording of the Act refers to the numerous arrangements that have to be made when someone dies, such as registering the death, making funeral arrangements, applying for a grant of probate etc. It does not extend to compassionate leave as a result of bereavement.
A Private Members' Bill, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill 2017-2019, was recently introduced into Parliament. It is being supported by the Government and has now been published. It will give employees who lose a child under 18 the right to two weeks' paid leave. All employees will be entitled to parental bereavement leave, and will benefit from statutory parental bereavement pay if they have at least 26 weeks' continuous service. Employers will be able to recover the cost of this from the Government.
The Bill's progress can be followed on the UK Parliament website.