Parental Bereavement Leave & Pay

13 Oct 2020 | Stephanie Prior
blue water

Leave and pay when a child dies

Pregnancy and childbirth can be very exciting but anxious times for both parents.  The uncertainty and the anticipation of your new arrival provide heightened emotional well-being. When you lose a child the anguish and grief are insurmountable. We are often not prepared for loss, especially if it is the loss of a child.

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and from 9 – 15 October many charities and support groups will be helping those who have suffered a loss in pregnancy or soon after birth to mark the lives of those that they have lost.

Each day during that week various events are organised to bring parents together; consider the wider family members such as siblings; grandparents and family friends of the lost baby.  Families can share their stories and provide support to others in the same position and discuss issues that they have encountered since the loss of their baby.

Issues such as taking time off of work and not being able to face work colleagues when either parent goes back to work are often difficult issues to address. It may be that financial constraints preventing bereaved parents from taking time off of work come into play and they are forced to return to work prematurely.

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay is something that many parents will not be aware of. It is a government scheme that is accessible to parents who have lost a child before they turn 18 or if they have suffered a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The death or stillbirth must have occurred after 6 April 2020.

Parental Bereavement Leave

You are entitled to take 2 weeks’ parental bereavement leave from the first day of your employment if you meet the criteria. You are allowed to take 2 weeks together or take 2 separate weeks of leave or a week of leave.

If for example, you only work part-time and work on a Monday and a Wednesday, that will count as the first week if you take the Monday and Wednesday off of work.

Your leave may start on the day of the death or stillbirth or after the event but must be finished within 56 weeks of the date of the death or stillbirth. This period of time is split in two, from the date of death/stillbirth to 8 weeks afterwards and then 9 weeks to 56 weeks.

Your parental leave will start after any other leave such as maternity or paternity leave. In effect, it can follow on from the maternity or paternity leave but still must finish within the 56-week time period as mentioned above. It may also start between any shared parental leave that you have planned to take off even if that relates to another child of the family.

There are rules for foster and adoptive parents in so far that you can only claim for leave if you were a foster parent being paid by the local authority and there are rules for those caring for a child/baby who was receiving payments under the terms of a will or trust in relation to that child/baby’s care. There are also criteria for parents who had a baby with a surrogate and parents who have adopted a baby/child from outside the UK.

You must give your employer notice of the death/stillbirth and you must state when you want the leave to start and how much leave you are going to take. This can be organised over the telephone, by email or by text.  It is probably sensible to confirm your request in an email or text but if you prefer to speak to your employer about this on the telephone; keep a note of when you made the telephone call or follow up with an email so that you have a record for your own use.

There are no requirements to provide a death certificate or certificate of stillbirth.

You may cancel your leave but you must give your employer the correct notice and you can also rebook it.

Parental Bereavement Pay

To be eligible for any payment under this scheme you must be:

  • ‘the child or baby’s parent – either biological, adoptive or parent of a child born to a surrogate;
  • The partner of the child or baby’s parent’.

If an Adoption Order has been made it will be the adoptive parents who are entitled to claim the payment rather than the biological parents who placed the child/baby for adoption. The same applies if a Parental Order has been made.

The rules define day to day responsibility of a child so that you may be able to claim the payment if both of these apply:

  • ‘the child or baby was living with you at your home for 4 continuous weeks, ending with the date of death
  • you or your partner had day-to-day responsibility for the child or baby’s care during that time’

Foster Parents

If you are a foster parent and a child or baby that you were looking after dies you only qualify for statutory bereavement pay if you were:

  • ‘a foster parent being paid a fee or allowance by a local authority
  • reimbursed for expenses related to caring for the child or baby
  • getting payments under the terms of a will or trust for the child or baby’s care’

If one of the parents of the child or baby was living with you at the same time you will not be able to claim the payment. The parent will be able to.

Adoptive Parents

If you have adopted a child or baby that dies you can only apply for the payment:

  • ‘after the adoption order was granted
  • before the adoption order was made, if the child was placed with you and the placement was not disrupted (for example, being temporarily placed elsewhere) or stopped’

There are also rules for parents who adopt a baby/child from outside the UK.

How to Apply for Parental Bereavement Leave & Pay

You must apply for this within 28 days of the first day of the week that you are claiming the payment for and provide your employer with your name; the dates that you want the pay and the date of the death/stillbirth.

You are also obliged to provide a declaration proving your eligibility and this must be provided to your employer. This can be done online here or in writing/by email to your employer.

If you meet the criteria for statutory bereavement pay you will receive £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly pay, whatever is lower if you were employed for at least 26 weeks (as at the Saturday of the week immediately) before the week of the death/stillbirth. You must also earn an average of £120 or more a week.

What if I can’t pay for the Funeral Expenses?

The Children’s Funeral Fund

In England, Wales or Scotland the local authority will not charge fees for a standard burial or cremation of a baby or child under the age of 18. The Children’s Funeral Fund for England assists with this cost and this is not means-tested. As well as the burial and cremation the cost of the doctor’s certificate is also included.

If you prefer a more elaborate burial that is not classed as ‘standard’ this may not be covered.

The cost relating to the funeral director, flowers and memorial stone will still have to be paid for as there is no exemption on payment of these fees.

However, in England only, there is the Children’s Funeral Fund and you can claim a £300 contribution towards the cost of the coffin; casket or shroud. Usually, the funeral director will reclaim this. If you are claiming it you have to submit the claim within 6 months of the funeral taking place

Funeral Expenses Payment

Further, if one parent is in receipt of benefits of tax credits or is receiving support for a mortgage interest loan, they may be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment. This will assist with the cost of the funeral; travel to the funeral; the cost of moving the deceased if over 50 miles away etc.

How much you are able to claim depends on your individual circumstances and if you have any other ways of paying for the funeral.

The current limits are:

£700 if the death was before 8 April 2020

£1,000 if the death was after 8 April 2020

The easiest way to check if you qualify is to telephone 0800 731 0469  and then chose option 2. The helpline is only to assist with claims relating to a child under 16 or aged 16-19 and in full-time education or training and is open Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm.

All of this information is overwhelming when a parent/parents are suffering the loss of a baby or child. Such a loss is often so difficult to comprehend and something that is almost impossible to come to terms with. Pregnancy and infant loss awareness month is a way for bereaved parents to come together and remember loved ones they have lost and to share information between themselves that they may not know or be aware of.

If you would like to speak to a member of the clinical negligence team, call 0207 485 8811 or complete an online enquiry form.

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