Parental bereavement leave

Parental bereavement leave

The death of a child is an extremely traumatic event for anybody, with financial stress often an added issue to contend with. While there are numerous practical issues to address upon the death of a child, for many people, time away from the workplace is just the start of the healing process. Thankfully, there are various regulations with regards to parental bereavement leave which need to be respected by your employer.

Right to parental bereavement leave

Everyone has the basic right to at least 2 weeks off for parental bereavement leave where:-

  • Your child died on or after 6 April 2020
  • They were stillborn or under 18 years of age

It’s important to note that the issue of stillborn children is treated in the same manner as the death of an older child. The trauma and mental pressure associated with these events will often require professional assistance.

Eligibility to parental leave

Thankfully, in this changing world, the rules and regulations regarding parental bereavement leave also tackle the issue of non-birth parents. So, whether you are a birth parent, a parent by surrogacy, or an adoptive parent, you have the right to claim parental bereavement leave.

The subject of “parents in fact” is also covered. So, if your situation is covered by both of the following conditions then you are eligible for parental bereavement leave:-

  • You lived with the child for a minimum of four weeks, up to and also including the day that they passed away
  • You were responsible for the child’s care on a day-to-day basis, but received no remuneration

It is also important to note that you are still entitled to parental bereavement leave even if you are on:-

  • Maternity leave
  • Paternity leave
  • Adoption leave
  • Shared parental leave

We have seen a significant tightening of the rules and regulations regarding bereavement leave which now reflect recent changes in society.

Parental bereavement pay

While we will cover the issue of parental bereavement pay in more detail on this page, your employer is not obliged to continue with your normal employment payments. However, akin to maternity leave, if you are eligible you may also be able to claim for parental bereavement pay.

On occasion, some employers may recommend a different type of leave which could be either unpaid or paid. It will depend upon your specific scenario, what your employer is obliged to offer and what they are able to offer on a voluntary basis. Where there may be issues with eligibility, many people will decide to take paid holidays in place of parental bereavement leave.

Can you take parental bereavement leave?

Many people may be surprised to learn that there is an important difference between the eligibility for parental bereavement leave dependant upon your employment status. You are legally recognised as an employee if:-

  • Your employer is in complete charge of the work you do and how you structure your day-to-day activities
  • You are contracted to carry out the work yourself – it cannot be allocated to anyone else or a third party
  • You are under contract to carry out a specific amount of work – failure to do so may impact your remuneration

You will likely be recognised as a worker if:-

  • You are contracted to carry out the work yourself
  • Your employer is neither a client/customer of a business that you run
  • Your employer is in charge of your remuneration and discipline in the workplace

These may be relatively subtle differences but they are very important when it comes to parental bereavement leave. You are entitled to parental bereavement leave if you are an employee but not if you are a worker.


The situation regarding those who are self-employed is very simple; you aren’t entitled to parental bereavement leave, because you work for yourself. On occasion, there may be a dispute with regards to your employment contract. It may suggest that you are self-employed, when in fact the conditions of your work deem you as an employee. If in doubt, take professional advice!

Timing of parental bereavement leave

Grief is a very personal issue and something which can hit home at any stage. As a consequence, there is significant leeway on the timing of your parental bereavement leave. The conditions are as follows:-

  • All of your parental bereavement leave must be taken within 56 weeks of the death of your child
  • Leave can be taken as one block of two weeks or two blocks of one week
  • In the event of both parents/partners being eligible for parental bereavement leave, they don’t need to take this together concurrently

It is obviously important to open lines of communication with your employer to ensure that they are aware of your future plans, and the timing of any parental bereavement leave.

How to claim parental bereavement leave

The first thing to recognise is that you are not obliged to provide paperwork to your employer as proof of what happened to your child. However, if you intend to take parental bereavement leave you need to let your employer know:-

  • You have decided to take parental bereavement leave
  • The preferable start and end date of your leave
  • The date when your child passed away

There is significant scope regarding the timing of your parental bereavement leave. However, if you take parental bereavement leave:-

  • within 56 days of the child’s death, you should inform your employer asap (preferably before your first day of leave)
  • more than 56 days following the child’s death, you are obliged to inform your employer at least a week before starting your leave

On occasion your employer may hint at a preferred parental bereavement leave period – maybe as a consequence of work commitments. However, legally they are not allowed to influence you or ask you to change your preferred leave period.

Taking additional holiday leave

If you have holiday leave outstanding then you are allowed to take this straight after your parental bereavement leave – without returning to work. Many people will choose to use up their holiday entitlement at the same time in order to extend their period of recovery and recuperation. From a legal perspective, you are deemed to have returned to work on the first day of your holiday leave, after your official parental bereavement leave has ended.

Disputes with your employer

While not necessarily common, at times you may be in dispute with your employer with regards to the taking of parental bereavement leave. This may be based upon a misunderstanding by your employer or simple reluctance to help you. At this point it is worth noting that your entitlement to parental bereavement leave is a legal entitlement.

If your employer is refusing to honour your right to parental bereavement leave you should first of all bring this up in an informal manner. Present evidence to highlight your situation, your respective rights and the obligations of your employer. If the informal route is unsuccessful, you will need to place a formal complaint on record. This obliges your employer to reply in writing, clarifying their position and any disagreements they may have with your arguments.

Again, while unlikely, the next course of action would be a conciliation service such as ACAS, and then a formal employment tribunal. The rules and regulations regarding entitlement to parental bereavement leave are fairly straightforward. However, some scenarios may take disputes into the area of legally empowered employment tribunals. Hopefully not!

Know your rights to parental bereavement leave

It is highly unlikely that your employer will be anything less than sympathetic when it comes to the death of a child. That said, while as an employee you have specific rights, you also have various obligations to keep your employer informed of developments. Common sense should prevail in these situations, an acceptance that timescales may slip as a consequence of grief. As long as both parties are “on the same page” there should be little in the way of friction between employees and employers.

Some employers include additional bereavement support/services in their employment contracts. In the event of finding yourself needing to take parental bereavement leave, you would hope that your employer would point out these additional terms in your contract.