New Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Bill for Northern Ireland
On 7 February 2022, the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a Bill meaning that, from later this year, eligible working parents will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory paid leave following the death of a child or a stillbirth (after 24 weeks of pregnancy). The Bill was introduced by Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, having initially been championed by his predecessor Diane Dodds MLA.
This is an important and welcome development. The death of a child will have a devastating impact on any parent. Legislating to ensure eligible working parents can have paid time off will not lessen their grief, but will at least ease the pressure of potentially having to return to work after a few days or take unpaid leave, holiday or sick leave.
The Bill will align provision in Northern Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom, but it also goes one step further. Provision for parents who experience a miscarriage will also follow at a later date (no later than April 2026), following a public consultation. This will mean that Northern Ireland will be the first jurisdiction in Europe to have legislated for miscarriage employment rights.
What employment support will be provided for parents?
In summary, eligible working parents will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory paid leave.
- All employees will have a right to Statutory Parental Bereavement Leave of at least two weeks from the day they start their job, regardless of how long they have worked for their employer.
- To qualify for Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay during this time, the parent must have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks at the time of their child’s death, and a minimum earnings threshold will also apply.
Provision is not available for self-employed parents.
At present, in Great Britain Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay is paid at a rate of £151.97 per week, or 90% of the parent’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
Parents taking Parental Bereavement Leave will have the same employment protections as those associated with other forms of family related leave, for example Maternity Leave.
When will this come into force?
Following Royal Assent, this new employment right will be introduced later in the year. Further detail will follow in regulations to be published by the Department for the Economy, which we hope will be as soon as possible. Speaking earlier this year in the Assembly, Minister Gordon Lyons expressed his intention that Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay would be introduced “no later than this coming April.”
Further information on the passage of this Bill through the Northern Ireland Assembly is available here. Once regulations have been made, and a date for the introduction of these provisions is agreed, we will update our factsheet on employment rights for working parents, available on our website.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact our Family Benefits Advice Service on 0800 028 3008 or email email@example.com.