HomeTalent ManagementRewards & BenefitsEmployee BenefitsCritics say UK’s new parental leave legislation fall short

Critics say UK's new parental leave legislation fall short

  • 3 Min Read

The bill presents an opportunity for the government to take a more comprehensive look at parental leave policies.

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The Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Bereavement) Bill, proposed by Labour MP Chris Elmore, has successfully passed its first stage in the House of Commons.

This legislation aims to close a legal loophole that currently leaves some parents without sufficient time to grieve, plan, and adjust to life without the mother of their child following a tragic loss during pregnancy or childbirth.

Under the current law, partners must have worked for their employer for 26 weeks and given three months’ notice before the birth to access parental leave and pay.

The proposed bill seeks to guarantee a day-one right to leave for parents in these most tragic of circumstances who do not meet the current continuity of service requirements. This would ensure that these individuals have a guaranteed leave entitlement to process their grief and change in personal circumstances, along with a job to return to when they are ready.

While this is a significant step forward, some experts argue that the bill does not go far enough. Jeremy Davies, head of impact and communications at the Fatherhood Institute, suggests that the financial crisis a bereaved father would likely find himself in would not be solved by this legislation.

He points out that the statutory Shared Parental Leave (SPL) pay of £172.48 per week represents less than half the national living wage. Davies advocates for an individual right for fathers to a period of parental and paternity leave, paid at a high wage-replacement level amount.

Alison Green, director of Womba (Work, Me and the Baby), echoes this sentiment, stating that the complexity of shared parental leave in the UK already prevents many parents from using their legal entitlement. She believes that making SPL and pay a day-one employment right for a father or partner, where the mother of the child has died, is a well-overdue step in the right direction.

For employers, this bill signifies potential changes to policies and procedures. If passed, it will require employers to adjust their parental leave policies to accommodate this new right. It also highlights the need for employers to provide compassionate bereavement support to their employees, a topic that is increasingly gaining attention in the HR world.

However, the bill also presents an opportunity for the government to take a more comprehensive look at parental leave policies.

As Rachel Warren, Marie Curie’s senior policy and research manager, points out, statutory bereavement leave and emotional support should be “available for everyone after someone close to them dies.” She suggests that the current provision is still dependent on the employer’s discretion, indicating a need for more robust legislation in this area.

While the Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Bereavement) Bill represents a step forward, it also highlights the ongoing need for a broader review and reform of parental leave policies in the UK.

As HR professionals, it is crucial to stay informed about these developments and prepare for potential changes in our policies and procedures.

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