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Stop Press!! Bereavement Leave & Employment Tribunal Fees

Meredith Hurst Wednesday, October 25, 2017

We bring news of two interesting developments for employers and for employees and for anyone who made an employment tribunal claim between 29 July 2013 and 26 July 2017…

Bereavement Leave

Despite the provisions for taking time off in emergencies, and unpaid parental leave, there is no express provision for parents to take time off work in that most appalling of situations - when their child has died. Employees in this terrible situation have to rely on the good will of their employer, or perhaps a generic 'compassionate leave' policy which does not specifically address the trauma of losing a child.

In response to this, the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill has been introduced into the House of Commons by Kevin Hollinrake, MP. The Bill had its first reading on 13th October, and its second reading on 20th October 2017. If it becomes law, parents with 26 weeks' service with their employer will be entitled to 2 weeks' paid bereavement leave if they lose a child under the age of 18. Employers will be able to reclaim some of the bereavement pay from the government.

The bill has been welcomed by charities which support bereaved parents, including the Lullaby Trust. While many employers will seek to support employees who have to live through the death of a child, through contractual provisions or simply because it is the right thing to do, this statutory right to time off will undoubtedly help parents at such a difficult time.

Of course, some will say the bill does not go far enough - that there should be an entitlement to bereavement leave to support people when any close relative or friend passes away. This new legislation may prompt some employers to introduce contractual bereavement leave policies to cover circumstances when an employee's spouse or long-term partner dies, or equally, a child aged 18 or over - no less devastating than when a younger child dies.

It is anticipated that the right to bereavement leave will become law in 2020 - we'll keep you posted!

Employment Tribunal fees refund

On 26th July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that Employment Tribunal fees, introduced in 2013, were unlawful. Although they had been introduced to combat a deluge of weak and vexatious claims, the Court decided that the regime that had been introduced was disproportionate to the aim it was intended to achieve. The Government immediately suspended the fees, and announced that it would repay all tribunal fees that had been paid by claimants.

The Ministry of Justice has now announced initial plans for the repayment of those Employment Tribunal fees: some £33 million according to figures up to June 2017. Justice minister Dominic Raab has announced that the refunds will take place in phases. In the first phase, 1,000 people will be contacted, including those who have actively approached the Ministry of Justice enquiring about refunds) to take part in a 'trial' of the refund process, expected to last 4 weeks. The full refund scheme should be rolled out in November, although it appears that the Ministry of Justice is grappling with how to handle larger, multiple claims.

In addition to the refund process, the Ministry of Justice will be opening up a pre-registration scheme in readiness for the refund scheme coming in to operation, and has clarified a couple of additional points.

  • the refund will include interest on the fees paid.
  • People who cannot provide full details of their fees, or where there is a mismatch with the records kept by HM Courts and Tribunals Service may find their claims take longer to process
  • Where the claim is made by someone (an employer) who was ordered to reimburse the Tribunal fees paid by a claimant, they will have to produce the court order and proof of payment
  • If the terms of a private settlement included reimbursement of tribunal fees, the person who paid the tribunal fee is eligible to reclaim the fees - not the person who reimbursed the fees under the settlement.
  • All applicants will be asked to make a declaration of truth in respect of the details they provide.

If you've got any questions about either the new bereavement leave, or the scrapping of the employment tribunals fees, please get in touch!

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