The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill has been introduced to Parliament on 19 July 2017.
Under the proposed new law, employed parents who suffer the death of a child will for the first time be entitled to statutory paid leave. The law is supported by the government in line with its initiative to “enhance the rights and protections in the workplace” to ensure that grieving parents in employment receive paid leave to mourn away from the workplace.
Kevin Hollinrake MP who introduced the Bill said: “This is such an important Bill for parents going through the most terrible of times. There is little any of us can do to help, but at least we can make sure that every employer will give them time to grieve.”
At present, under the Employment Rights Act, there are no legal requirements for employers to give paid leave to grieving parents. Employees, however, have a right to take a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off work to make arrangements following the death of a dependant.
The new Bereavement Law will make it compulsory for employers to offer two weeks of paid bereavement leave to parents after the death of a child under the age of 18 or in full-time education. The Bill states that grieving parents must be paid no less than 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings, or £139.58 per week (which was the statutory weekly rate in force at the time the Bill was originally published, but is currently £140.98), whichever is lesser. This amendment could help parents deal with the financial implications of bereavement, including paying for funeral arrangements.
It has not yet been confirmed whether or not the law will include parents who have lost a child during pregnancy.
The Bill is expected to have its second reading in the House of Commons in the autumn. In the meantime, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be talking to employers, employee representatives and campaigners to better understand the needs of bereaved parents.
Based on a new report, Royal London estimates that the number of mothers missing out on vital credits towards their State Pension has more than doubled in the last two years and now stands at around 50,000. The increase has occurred since the introduction in January 2013 of the ‘High Income Child Benefit Tax Charge’.
This rule means that couples where one partner earns more than £60,000 per year have the value of their Child Benefit wiped out by a tax charge. In response to this, growing numbers of mothers starting a family since January 2013 have declined to claim Child Benefit at all. This means however they are missing out on vital National Insurance credits towards their state pension. Each year missed could cost 1/35 of the value of the state pension of around £231 per year or over £4,600 over the course of a typical 20 year retirement. Together, these mothers have lost hundreds of millions of pounds in retirement.
Prior to the 2013 changes, the number of families receiving child benefit had risen every year since 2007. Since then, the number has been falling. HMRC themselves say: “The number of children for whom Child Benefit is being paid is now at its lowest level since HMRC began producing these statistics (in 2003)”.
A woman who started her family in early 2013 and decided not to claim Child Benefit could have missed out on state pension credits for five years so far. The total loss over those five years could be 5/35 of a state pension. This is over £1,000 per year in retirement. Over the course of a twenty year retirement, such women could be more than £20,000 worse off in total. Worse still, as things stand, Child Benefit claims can only be backdated for three months so they will never recover the lost pension rights.