Paternity leave now a day-one right for bereaved partners

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On 24th May, the Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill became law. This Bill gives fathers the day-one right to paternity leave when the child’s mother dies.

The change has been long campaigned for by Aaron Horsey, who discovered he did not have the right to parental leave after his wife died during childbirth because he had worked for his employer for less than nine months.

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill amends the Employment Rights Act 1996 in England, Wales and Scotland (not Northern Ireland).

It means that bereaved fathers and partners can take paternity leave from day one of their employment to care for the child and have time to grieve.

Until now, employees needed to be employed for a minimum of 26 weeks to be eligible for paternity leave (unlike maternity leave, which is a day-one right). Employers also had no legal obligation to give bereaved parents time off.

The Paternity Leave Act:

  • Removes the minimum service requirement (previously 26 weeks) for bereaved partners where the mother of their child has died. This also covers adopted children and those born via surrogacy.
  • Enables bereaved partners to take leave from day one if both the mother and child die.
  • Enables bereaved partners to take paternity leave even if they have already taken shared parental leave.
  • Allows the bereaved father or partner to take keeping-in-touch (KIT) days without ending their paternity leave.

What does the Paternity Leave Bill mean for employers?

It is reported that the maternal death rate in the UK is the highest it’s been in 20 years. Whilst this figure is worrying, this new Bill will be reassuring to bereaved partners, who are left to parent their child alone and come to terms with the loss of their partner, can take time off work, no matter their length of service.

Although this Act will hopefully only apply in a small number of cases, employers should update their policies and procedures to reflect the change in law.

The Paternity Leave Bill changes the right to leave from 26 weeks of service to zero, but it does not specify whether this leave is paid. Until we hear otherwise, it is entirely the employer’s discretion whether employees are paid during this time.

Contact our employment law solicitors in Bristol

For practical advice on updating your policies, or anything else employment law related, get in touch. Call our employment lawyers on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.


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