Parental Anguish Scarcely Features in New Bereavement Regulations (UK)
An early contender for 2020’s Least Necessary Employment Law Award was issued last week, with a special commendation also in the Most Distasteful Details category.
So all rise for the Parental Bereavement Regulations 2020, described by one author in 2017 as an “overt attempt to turn grief into political capital.” Actually it was me, but since the finished product is basically as inept and unnecessary and pays as little regard to the realities of bereavement as the original proposal, the point remains good.
From 6 April this year, a parent who suffers a stillbirth or loses a child aged 18 or under (parents of older children are just supposed to take it on the chin, I guess) is entitled to two weeks off work – not necessarily consecutively – at the lower of £151.20 per week or 90% of salary. There is a lot of grotesquely over-engineered detail in the Regulations around Week A and Week B and how to move and cancel your weeks off within the 56 weeks after the child’s death, but appallingly the right to take that leave remains subject to the giving of prior notice, and even more shamefully, the right to your £151.20 is conditional upon the provision of a written statement that you are indeed the parent (as defined) of the deceased or stillborn child. Who is going to make that up, seriously?
Having said that, many years ago in a different world, I met an individual who had got himself into a spot of bother with his employer and was looking for some recourse. In an attempt to extract a bit of a break, he had told the employer wholly untruthfully that his mother had died. The resulting time off had been most pleasant, and so shortly after returning to work he went to HR to break the equally sad but equally untrue news that his father had passed away also. Suitably appalled by this double tragedy in such a short time, the employer had allowed him a substantial further period off on full pay. Again, he had found the time away most restorative and so had stepped it up a gear, ringing the employer to tell it (whilst pretending to be his own flat mate) that he himself had been killed in a crash the night before. Further time off had obviously followed, though it appeared that he had not fully considered the possibility that being dead might affect his salary. Incensed, he had gone in to see his employer about it. HR had apparently been most unsporting about the whole thing and threatened disciplinary action, at which point he had resigned. Anyway, could I help him? It was a short meeting.
It is surely inconceivable that an employer faced with an employee who had suffered such a loss would require any of this, not the notices or counter-notices, statements of parental status, or an immediate cut to £151.20 per week. After all, have they not read ACAS’s deathless 2014 Guide to Managing Bereavement in the Workplace, making it clear to even the dullest employer that it is really bad form not to tell the stricken employee that “he is not expected to work on the day the death has taken place”?
Have a heart, employers, and don’t sully yourselves with this one – to need to refer to it at all is just too demeaning.