Northern Ireland’s Public Consultation on Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay (15 June 2020)

Northern Ireland’s Public Consultation on Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay (15 June 2020)

Introduction

Presently, Northern Ireland provides no legal entitlement to Parental Bereavement Leave or Pay for employed parents following the loss of a child.

In GB, Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay legislation was introduced on 6 April 2020; the current statutory payment is the lower of £150.20 or 90% of weekly earnings. Of this, at least 92% is recoverable from HMRC.

The Department of Economy stated in February 2020 that they wished to introduce similar measures in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency. It has now launched this Public Consultation, which closes on 10 August 2020.

The Consultation Documents can be accessed HERE

There is also a helpful FAQ document which explains the key issues and how the right operates in GB.

We now welcome views from our Members on the areas set out below which will help form the basis of our Response.

The Consultation seeks views on:

  1. The definition of a ‘bereaved parent.’

In GB, the definition of a bereaved parent is centred on the notion of a ‘primary carer whose relationship with the child is parental in nature’. This broader definition extends the scope of the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay beyond legally recognised parents. It extends eligibility to people such as legal guardians and others who have a legally recognised ‘parental’ relationship with a child.

The Consultation seeks view on all the parental relationships and who else should be included in the definition and why?

 

  1. Defining how and when Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave can be taken.

The Department recognises the need to strike the right balance between allowing as much flexibility as possible for bereaved parents with varying needs to grieve, and the need for employers to have a degree of certainty over when and how their employees can take Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay.

The GB Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay legislation provides for 2 weeks statutory paid leave. Parents can choose to take the 2 weeks consecutively or non-consecutively in blocks of weeks over a period of 56 weeks from the death of a child.

Do you think these are suitable for Northern Ireland or are there alternative provisions that would be more suitable for bereaved parents and employers here?

 

  1. Identifying what level and length of notice period would be necessary.

In GB, the level and length of notice varies as follows:

0 to 8 weeks after the child’s death or stillbirth

An employee must give notice before the time they would normally start work on the first day of the period they want to take off work or, in the case where it is not reasonably practicable for the employee to give such notice, then notice should be given as soon as it is reasonably practicable.

9 to 56 weeks after the child’s death or stillbirth

An employee must give at least one week’s notice before the start of the week or weeks they want to take off work.

Are similar provisions right for Northern Ireland or are there alternative provisions that would be more suitable for bereaved parents and employers here?

 

  1. Establishing what evidence may be required to show that an employee is entitled to leave and pay under the regulations.

The GB consultation sought views on what evidential requirement would be needed for an employee wishing to take Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay.

There, the vast majority of respondents said that evidence should mirror existing family leave entitlements. For some family leave entitlements, an employee must provide a written declaration of entitlement and in others, an employee is only required to provide evidence of entitlement if their employer asks for it.

What, if any, evidence should be required for entitlement to Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay in Northern Ireland?

 

  1. Parental Bereavement: statutory provision for payment

Parental Bereavement Pay in GB (for 2020) is paid at a statutory rate of £150.20 or 90% of weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Of this at least 92% is recoverable from HMRC.

To be eligible to receive the statutory payment in GB you must have served at least 26 weeks continuous service with your employer.

Do you agree with: 

  • the requirement for a qualification period for payment of parental bereavement pay;
  • the payment for parental bereavement pay; and
  • a notice period and evidential requirements for claiming payment of parental bereavement pay in Northern Ireland.

 

  1. The Consultations states that over the past few years GB has made changes to employment policy and law while the position in Northern Ireland has remained static.

The Department is seeking views for other employment rights issues that could be considered as part of an employment rights strategy in Northern Ireland. It is intended that this strategy will take a more strategic, longer-term look at what employment law changes we should be making in Northern Ireland.

Commentary

We expect the absolute earliest that this legislation could be brought into force is October 2020, which is feasible if identical measures to GB are adopted.

Whilst we recognise that it is likely that Northern Ireland will adopt the identical counterpart measures in place in GB we are still keen to hear from any Member who has views on the proposals and the suggestions for other laws in which Northern Ireland could align itself to GB.

Members may recall that the previous Economy Minster was keen to have bespoke laws for Northern Ireland and in some instances departed significantly to the laws implemented in GB. However, the current Minister seems keen to align Northern Ireland more closely to GB. Therefore, the last question (6), seeking your feedback and comments on other employment law changes could have a real influence on the future direction of our economy.

Please send your responses to info@eefni.org

 

 

 

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