What you need to know about Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave

In last year’s Autumn Budget, the Government confirmed that parental bereavement leave will be introduced in 2020.

Here is what you need to know.

The background

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 introduces a new employment right to Parental Bereavement Leave (PBL) and an entitlement to Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP) for any ‘qualifying parent whose child (under the age of 18) dies or who suffers a still-birth from 24 weeks of pregnancy’ (1).

Primary carers, whether the child’s parents or not, will also be entitled to time off work. This would include ‘adopters, foster parents and guardians, as well as more informal groups such as close relatives or family friends who have taken responsibility for the child’s care in the absence of parents’ (2). The criteria being that ‘the child has been living with them, in their own home, continuously for a period of 4 weeks ending with the date of death, and they have had day to day responsibility for the child’s care during that time. Any temporary or intermittent absences are disregarded when deciding whether a period is ‘continuous’ – these carers will be known as ‘parents in fact’’ (1).

Primary carers will be entitled to up to two weeks’ leave; employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service and average earnings at or above the Lower Earnings Limit will receive paid leave at the statutory flat rate, other staff will be entitled to unpaid leave (2).

Leave can either be taken in one block or in two separate blocks of one week. It can be taken within a 56-week window from the child’s death so it can be added on to the end of maternity leave, but there is no obligation to take the full entitlement (1). Personnel Today highlights that ‘this will allow time off for moments such as anniversaries, and notice requirements will be flexible so leave can be taken without prior notice’.

When will it take affect?

According to the latest software developers’ guidance for SPBP reporting, the new entitlement ‘will apply to deaths from the 6th April 2020’ (1). PBL will be a ‘day one’ employment right, whereas eligibility for SPBP will be subject to certain qualifying conditions, as is the case for other parental Statutory Payments (SPs) (1).

What will this mean for eligible employees?

It’s important to note that eligible employees ‘will not need to provide a death certificate as evidence’, and leave can be taken on a flexible basis as mentioned above to support them through their bereavement (2). The Government aim to have detailed guidance available on GOV.UK in time for December 2019 (1). The SPBP declaration form for employees will also be available at this time.

What will this mean for agents and employers?

SPBP will predominantly follow the same administration rules as all other parental SPs and will be treated as earnings for tax and National Insurance Contributions purposes (1). Regulations are yet to be published which will set the policy’s details and implementation. This includes ‘the definition of a bereaved parent, the window in which the entitlement can be taken (the ‘qualifying period’), how the leave and pay can be taken, record keeping measures and how the entitlement will work in practice’ (1).

Current guidance indicates that SPBP may start on any day of the week and can be aligned with pay periods in the same manner as all other SPs (2). It also flags the following points to remember:

  • The employee does not have to remain in employment with the same employer until the week before SPBP is taken.They will be entitled to the payment if they meet the requisite conditions at the ‘relevant week’ (the ‘relevant week’ is the Saturday of the week before the one in which the child died).
  • If an employee works for the liable employer in any part of the week for which they have claimed SPBP, the employer has no obligation to pay SPBP for that week i.e it must be one or two full weeks.The employee can take the leave as two separate weeks.
  • SPBP cannot interrupt another statutory payment. SPBP can be taken at the end of any other statutory entitlement, or later. In any event, SPBP must be taken within the qualifying period which begins with the date of death and ends 56 weeks after that date. In the case of a stillbirth, the ‘date of death’ should be read as the date of birth of the stillborn child.
  • There will be no entitlement to SPBP in respect of any week during any part of which an employee is entitled to Statutory Sick Pay ie there are no KIT days in respect to SPBP
  • There is no liability to pay SPBP for any week following that in which the person claiming it has died.
  • There will be no prescribed limit to the number of people who can claim SPBP in respect of one child, however every claimant’s entitlement will be subject to that particular individual meeting qualifying conditions as to earnings
  • Where an employee is eligible for SPBP as a result of the deaths of more than one child, they will be entitled to 2 weeks’ SPBP in respect of each child (1).

An SPBP calculator and guidance on manual calculations will be produced and published alongside HMRC’s Basic PAYE Tools (BPT) (1). SPBP will be paid at the statutory flat weekly rate that would be £148.68 if the right was in force (or 90% of average earnings, where this is lower) (1). The rate of SPBP will be uprated each year, in line with other family-related statutory payments, e.g. Statutory Maternity Pay, and there are no KIT days for SPBP (1).

Alongside the guidance on GOV.UK, employers will also find their record keeping forms (1). Records must be kept for 3 years after the end of the tax year in which the employer made the payments of SPBP (1). These will include details of the SPBP payments that have been made and recovered (date period of SPBP began and the amount paid in each week) and the corresponding evidence including the name of employee, the date of child’s death (or date of birth in case of a stillbirth), the period(s) for which SPBP has been paid, and the employee’s written declaration that qualifying conditions have been met (1). If the employer did not pay SPBP to the employee in respect of a week that was within the employee’s period of payment, guidance states that the employer must record that week along with the reason no payment was made.

SPBP-ready checklist

  • Read the latest guidance for SPBP in full here
  • Put plans in place to make employee guidance easily accessible within your organisation
  • Prepare your team/agents to know the best practice and protocol ahead of 6th April – this is a deeply distressing and devastating time for eligible employees, so the process must be prepared for both practically and culturally within organisations

Sources

(1) https://www.cipp.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/18e07673-c112-4fb6-be60e0338c2e5a3b.pdf

(2) https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/parental-bereavement-pay-and-leave-act-2018/