Telemedicine – Are There Increased Risks With Virtual Doctor Visits?

“Telemedicine” or “Telehealth” are the terms most often used when referring to clinical diagnosis and monitoring that is delivered by technology. Telemedicine encompasses healthcare provided via real time two-way video conferencing; file sharing, including transmission of health history, x-rays, films, or photos; remote patient monitoring; and consumer mobile health apps on smart phones, tablets, and devices that collect data and transmit it to a healthcare provider. Telemedicine is increasingly being used for everything from diagnosing common viruses to monitoring patients with serious long-term health issues.

The American Telemedicine Association reports that majority of hospitals now use some form of telemedicine. Two years ago, there were approximately 20 million telemedicine video consultations; that number is expected to increase to about 160 million by 2020. An estimated one-third of employer group plans already cover some type of telehealth.

Telemedicine implicates legal and regulatory issues as licensing, prescribing, credentialing, and cybersecurity. Pennsylvania recently passed legislation joining the Interstate Medical Licensing Compact, an agreement whereby licensed physicians can qualify to practice medicine across state lines within the Compact if they meet the eligibility requirements. The Compact enables physicians to obtain licenses to practice in multiple states, while strengthening public protection through the sharing of investigative and disciplinary information.

Federal and state laws and regulations may differ in their definitions and regulation of telemedicine. New Jersey recently passed legislation authorizing health care providers to engage in telemedicine and telehealth. The law establishes telemedicine practice standards, requirements for health care providers, and telehealth coverage requirements for various types of health insurance plans. Earlier this year, Texas became the last state to abolish the requirement that patient-physician relationships must first be established during an in-person patient/doctor visit before a telemedicine visit.

As telemedicine use increases, there will likely be an increase in related professional liability claims. One legal issue that arises in the context of telemedicine involves the standard of care that applies. The New Jersey statute states that the doctor is held to the same standard of care as applies to in-person settings. If that is not possible, the health care provider is required direct the patient to seek in-person care. However, the standard of care for telemedicine is neither clear nor uniform across the states.

Another issue that arises in the context of telemedicine is informed consent, especially in terms of communication, and keeping in mind that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently held that only the doctor, and not staff members, can obtain informed consent from patients. Miscommunication between a healthcare provider and patient is often an underlying cause of medical malpractice allegations in terms of whether informed consent was obtained.

In addition, equipment deficiencies or malfunctions can mask symptoms that would be evident during an in-person examination or result in the failure to transmit data accurately or timely, affecting the diagnosis or treatment of the patient.

Some of these issues will likely ultimately be addressed by legislative or regulatory bodies but others may end up in the courts. According to one medical malpractice insurer, claims relating to telemedicine have resulted from situations involving the remote reading of x-rays and fetal monitor strips by physicians, attempts to diagnose a patient via telemedicine, delays in treatment, and failure to order medication.

recent Pennsylvania case illustrates how telemedicine may also impact the way medical malpractice claims are treated in the courts. In Pennsylvania, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed in the county where the alleged malpractice occurred. Transferring venue back to Philadelphia County, the Superior Court in Pennsylvania found that alleged medical malpractice occurred in Philadelphia — where the physician and staff failed to timely transmit the physician’s interpretation of an infant’s echocardiogram to the hospital in another county where the infant was being treated.

The use of telemedicine will likely have wide-reaching implications for health care and health care law, including medical malpractice.

This post was written by Michael C. Ksiazek of STARK & STARK, COPYRIGHT ©
2017
For more Health Care legal analysis, go to The National Law Review 

The Law of Unintended Consequences: BIPA and the Effects of the Illinois Class Action Epidemic on Employers

Has your company recently beefed up its employee identification and access security and added biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or retina scans? Have you implemented new timekeeping technology utilizing biometric identifiers like fingerprints or palm prints in lieu of punch clocks? All of these developments provide an extra measure of security control beyond key cards which can be lost or stolen, and can help to control a time-keeping fraud practice known as “buddy punching.” If you have operations and employees in Illinois (or if you utilize biometrics such as voice scans to authenticate customers located in Illinois), your risk and liability could have increased with the adoption of such biometric technology, so read on ….

What’s the Issue in Illinois?

The collection of biometric identifiers is not generally regulated either by the federal government or the states. There are some exceptions, however. Back in 2008, Illinois passed the first biometric privacy law in the United States. The Biometric Information Privacy Act, known as “BIPA,” makes it unlawful for private entities to collect, store, or use biometric information, such as retina/iris scans, voice scans, face scans, or fingerprints, without first obtaining individual consent for such activities. BIPA also requires that covered entities take specific precautions to secure the information. BIPA also carries statutory penalties for every individual violation that can multiply quickly … and the lawsuits against employers have been coming by the dozens over the past few months.

The Requirements of BIPA

Among other requirements, under BIPA, any “private entity” — including employers — collecting, storing, or using the biometric information of any individual in Illinois – no matter how it is collected, stored or used, or for what reason – must:

  1. Provide each individual with written notice that his/her biometric information will be collected and stored, including an explanation of the purpose for collecting the information as well as the length of time it will be stored and/or used.
  2. Obtain the subject’s express written authorization to collect and store his/her biometric information, prior to that information being collected.
  3. Develop and make available to the public a written policy establishing a retention schedule and guidelines for destroying the biometric information, which shall include destruction of the information when the reason for collection has been satisfied or three years after the company’s last interaction with the individual, whichever occurs first.

Also, any such information collected may not be disclosed to or shared with third parties without the prior consent of the individual.The Money Issue

Under the law, plaintiffs may recover statutory damages of $1,000 for eachnegligent violation and $5,000 per intentional or reckless violation, plus attorneys’ fees and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. Moreover, if actual damages exceed liquidated damages, then a plaintiff is entitled under the Act to pursue actual damages in lieu of liquidated damages.

These damage calculations are made and awarded under BIPA on an individual basis. Do the math: If an employer has 100 employees in Illinois and has allegedly been negligent in obtaining required BIPA consent from employees, this can be a potential exposure of an employer to $500,000 in penalties, before you add in the ability to recover attorneys’ fees.

Who is Getting Sued?

The list of companies sued under BIPA spans industries. The initial groups of defendants included companies such as Facebook, Shutterfly, Google, Six Flags, and Snapchat. Also, a chain of tanning salons and a chain of fitness centers were each sued for using biometric technology to identify members. Between July and October, nearly 26 class-action lawsuits were filed in Illinois state court by current and former employees alleging their employers had violated the BIPA. Companies range from supermarket chains, a gas station and convenience store chain, a chain of senior living facilities, several restaurant groups, and a chain of daycare facilities.

Facts vary from case to case, but nearly all of the recent employee BIPA cases implicate fingerprint or palm-print time-keeping technologies that collect biometric data to to clock employees’ work hours. The plaintiffs allege their employers failed to inform employees about the companies’ policies for use, storage and ultimate destruction of the fingerprint data or obtain the employees’ written consent before collecting, using or storing the individual biometric information.

In at least one case, the employee has also alleged fingerprint data was improperly shared with the supplier of the time-tracking machines, and has named that supplier as a defendant as well (Howe v. Speedway LLC, No. 2017-CH-11992 (Ill. Cir. Ct. filed Sept. 1, 2017)).

What Do I Do Now?

In order to avoid becoming the next target, employers with operations and employees in Illinois should ask some basic questions and review processes and procedures:

  1. First question to ask: are we collecting, storing or using individual biometric data for any purpose?
  2. If the answer is yes, has your company issued the required notice and received signed releases/consents from all affected individuals? This release/consent should be obtained at the commencement of employment before any collection of individual biometric data begins. Do you have a publicaly available written policy to cover the collection, storage, use and destruction of the data? The employee handbook is the most logical place for this policy.
  3. Review your processes: (a) make sure that any collected data is not being sold or disclosed to third parties, outside of the limited exceptions permitted by the Act, and this includes vendors and third party suppliers of biometric technology who process and store the information in a cloud-based service, and (b) make sure that you evaluate your internal data privacy protocols and processes for protecting this new data set, and be prepared to prove that you have “reasonably sufficient” security measures in place for the individual biometric data.
  4. Review your vendor processes: If a vendor has access to the individual biometric data (such as a software-as-a-service provider), make sure the vendor has sufficient data privacy protocols and processes in place and that you have representations regarding this protection from the vendor.
  5. Review insurance coverage for this type of exposure with your broker.
  6. Remember the data breach issues: Make sure your data breach policies recognize that individual biometric data is considered personal information under Illinois laws addressing data breach notification requirements.

This post was authored by Cynthia J. Larose of © Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. For more Labor & Employment legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

Right-to-Work Battle in Illinois Enters Cease Fire – For Now

Illinois is completely surrounded by right-to-work states that have laws making it unlawful for companies to require union dues as a condition of employment. Notwithstanding the recent trend of states enacting such laws, the Illinois legislature tried its best this year to block right-to-work legislation within its borders.

Earlier this year, the Illinois legislature passed a law that would prohibit local governments from enacting their own right-to-work laws after one Illinois municipality attempted to enact a right-to-work ordinance in 2015. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the legislation – based on his belief that right-to-work laws promote business growth – and this week the legislature fell one vote short of overriding his veto. There are signals legislators may attempt to revive the legislation next year. Thus, this remains an issue for Illinois employers to watch.

This issue is not unique to Illinois; local governments in Kentucky enjoyed some success with their own right-to-work ordinances several years ago before the state enacted its own right-to-work law.

Right-to-work laws are permitted under Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act and make it unlawful for companies to require union dues as a condition of employment. In states where right-to-work laws are not enacted, most unionized employers have clauses in their labor agreements that require dues payments as a condition of employment – the clauses generally are known as “union seniority clauses.” At present, 28 states have right-to-work laws on the books. The National Right to Work Foundation maintains a current list.

This post was written by David J. Pryzbylski of BARNES & THORNBURG LLP., © 2017
For more Labor & Employment legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

Brexit: Limiting the Damage

It is one of the ironies of history that the EU as it is today, starting with the single market, was largely made in Britain, the achievement, above all, of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her right-hand man in Brussels, the then Commissioner (Lord) Arthur Cockfield. The single market has long been viewed by observers in countries with less of a free market tradition as a typically British liberal invention. And yet it is this market, as well as the EU itself, that another Conservative government is now seeking to leave.

Britain has also left its stamp on key EU initiatives from regional policy to development assistance and fisheries. The EU’s interest in a common foreign and security policy originally stemmed from Britain. The EU’s comparatively transparent and accountable administrative rules date from the reforms introduced by former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock when he was Vice-President of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004. Thus, representatives of Britain’s two major parties have helped to make the EU what it is today.

If British prime ministers had explained to public opinion earlier the extent of their country’s influence on the EU, something that other Europeans never doubted, the referendum of 23 June 2016 might never have occurred.

A “Smooth and Sensible” Brexit

Be that as it may, Europeans on both sides of the English Channel are now grappling with the consequences of that vote. If reason and economic interest prevail, a “smooth and sensible” Brexit, as evoked by the British prime minister in Florence in September, might yet emerge.

This would involve a broad agreement, in 2017, on the principal aspects of the divorce settlement. This concerns mainly Britain’s financial commitments to the EU, the residence, professional and health rights of citizens living on both sides of the Channel after Brexit, and the need to maintain the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland and to avoid a hard border across the island of Ireland after Brexit. While Brussels, London and Dublin have affirmed their intention of achieving these goals, there are many practical and political issues to resolve.

If sufficient confidence and trust between EU and UK negotiators is established, it should also be possible to agree to the general terms of a future political and economic agreement between London and Brussels by the end of the year and to broach the question of transitional arrangements to smooth the way for government and business. The British government wishes to ensure that business need adjust to Brexit only once, hence the need for a smooth transition to a well-defined future relationship.

If good progress is made next year, the separation agreement and transitional arrangements could be drawn up by October 2018, allowing enough time for approval by EU and British institutions ahead of Britain’s exit from the EU at midnight between 29 and 30 October 2019. Little, except Britain’s lost vote in EU institutions, would then change for the next two to three years, as the UK continued to make payments to the EU budget, respect judgements of the European Court of Justice and accept the free movement of labour.

The breathing space would be used to negotiate, sign and ratify a two-part long-term agreement. The first part would cover trade and economic issues; it could take effect provisionally relatively quickly after agreement had been reached. The second part, though, would be a wide-ranging political agreement, involving security and even aspects of defence. Both sides have an interest in cooperation on armaments production and unconventional forms of conflict, as well as police and judicial affairs. This would involve the member states’ legal responsibilities and require ratification by all twenty-eight countries concerned. It might not come into effect before the mid-late 2020s.

This relatively benign sequence of events assumes that the British government is unified behind its negotiator, David Davies, and that the political situation in Britain and the EU remains generally stable. It also assumes that the EU can move beyond its rigid two-stage sequencing of the negotiations.

However, there may well be political upsets, involving a leadership competition in the Conservative Party and, perhaps, an early general election. The opposition Labour Party may come to power bringing a change in priorities but also differences of opinion in its own ranks. The British economy will be damaged by Brexit, according to leading economists, and public opinion is likely to react when this is widely felt.[1]Until now, the main impact has been a decline in sterling and rising inflation, raising the prospect of higher interest rates.

The “Cliff Edge” Scenario

Such uncertainties, as well as the divergent political agendas of London and Brussels, may make the smooth and sensible Brexit impossible to achieve during the limited time available. This opens the way to a second scenario, widely described in Britain as the cliff edge. Under this hypothesis, the December 2017 goal for achieving a breakthrough in the separation talks is missed. This further postpones discussion of transitional arrangements and a future long-term agreement.

Negotiations continue fitfully during 2018 but the two sides are too far apart to reach agreement by October 2018, which the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has designated as the effective deadline. If October passes without an overall agreement, it will probably be too late to secure the agreement of the European Parliament before 29 March 2019, when the two-year negotiating period initiated by the British government’s notification of withdrawal expires. Nonetheless, negotiations might well go down to the wire.

Unless all twenty-eight countries “stop the clock” at midnight, an old Brussels ruse, the UK would then leave the EU without an agreement. Business leaders have warned of the chaos this will bring. There will be an unmanageable fivefold increase in work at British, Irish and mainland European ports checking consignments, the suspension of air travel between the UK and the EU, pending the conclusion of a new air transport agreement, and other major disruptions.

Health, safety, veterinary and phytosanitary inspections, as well as the assessment of customs duties, would lead to long queues of lorries at ports on both sides of the channel. Neither side can build the necessary infrastructure and linked IT systems or recruit sufficient qualified staff in time to cope with dramatically increased requirements after a hard Brexit. Supply chains would be disrupted and many foreign-owned companies, which had not already relocated to remaining EU countries, would seek to do so rapidly.

The political and economic damage of going over the cliff edge would last for years and embitter the UK’s relations with the EU and third countries. Many would question the value of Britain’s WTO commitments in the absence of appropriate trading arrangements between Britain and the EU.

This then is a sketch of the cliff edge. Those who admire Britain for its pragmatism, fairness and common sense find it hard to believe that such a scenario might become reality. Surely, they say, Britain and the EU are involved in preliminary skirmishing of the type that precedes any negotiation. They are sure to come to their senses as the decisive deadlines approach. Nothing is less than certain.

A Tale of “Downside” Risks

The outcome may well diverge from either the optimistic or the pessimistic scenarios delineated above. However, the risks are mainly “downside” as the economists put it. British negotiators have not yet grasped the fundamentally asymmetric nature of negotiations between twenty-seven countries backed by European institutions on the one side and a single country seeking to leave the club on the other. It would be better for government, business and the public, if this reality were more widely recognized, leading to realistic negotiating targets. Indeed, Brexit is not really a negotiation at all in the usual sense. It is rather an effort by the leaving country to secure some exceptions from the club’s rules at the time of its departure. This is much akin to the efforts of a candidate (joining) country to achieve some, temporary, transitional exceptions to the EU’s rules.

The Brexit talks are essentially an exercise in damage limitation, mainly through transitional arrangements. When the divorce and transitional arrangements have been agreed, Britain and the EU can concentrate on negotiating a long-term partnership which will be in their mutual interest.

This post was written by Michael Leigh of Covington & Burling LLP., © 2017
For more Global legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

Equity Plan Share Reserves: How to Increase Its Life Expectancy: Executive Compensation Practical Pointers

Efforts to conserve an equity plan’s share reserve should begin the day the issuer’s stockholders approve the plan (or share increase), and should continue going forward. Issuers that do not make such efforts tend to face problems relating to dwindling share reserves, including moving to cash-based programs, hiring proxy solicitation firms to garner stockholder support for share increases, and overcoming possible negative reactions from ISS.

The following are some ideas an issuer could use to extend the life of its plan share reserve:1

  • Grant awards that are settled in cash – Depending on the terms of the plan, a cash-settled award may not draw from the share reserve.2 An alternative would be settling a portion of the award in shares (e.g., up to target), with any achievement above that settled in cash.
  • Grant full value awards like restricted stock or RSUs – Such grants provide greater value to the holder than options or SARs, the latter providing incentive only to the extent the share price exceeds the exercise/strike price, but draw from the share reserve the same as full value awards.3
  • Permit net-exercise of stock options – Depending on the terms of the plan, the shares subject to the option that are netted in a net-exercise may not draw from the share reserve. Also, a net-exercise could be helpful to a Section 16 insider to avoid a blackout (i.e., no open market transaction occurs with a net-exercise).4
  • Amend the plan to permit maximum withholding – A recent change in accounting rules provides that maximum withholding will not result in liability accounting treatment. Depending on the terms of the plan, withholding of shares to cover taxes may not draw from the share reserve.
  • Grant stock-settled SARs rather than options – A stock-settled SAR will provide the same economic result as a net-exercised option, but since a SAR is settled in shares with respect to only the excess over the strike price, fewer shares are burned than with a net-exercised option.
  • Use inducement awards for new executive-level hires and certain M&A events – The award must be a material inducement to getting the executive/employee to accept the position. If properly structured, these awards can be made outside of the plan and do not require stockholder approval under NYSE or NASDAQ rules.5
  • Implement an ESOP or ESPP – ESOPs, which are subject to ERISA, do not require stockholder approval under NYSE or NASDAQ rules. Depending upon the structure of an ESPP, stockholder approval may be required.6

1. Some of these methods involve liberal share counting, which is disfavored by ISS.

2. Liability classification would apply for accounting purposes and settlement in cash will not count towards satisfying any share ownership requirements.

3. This method will not work if the plan contains fungible share counting provisions.

4. However, a net-exercise of an incentive stock option could jeopardize the ISO’s favorable tax treatment.

5. Without stockholder approval, such awards could not qualify for deduction under Section 162(m), if applicable.

6. Broad participation requirements may apply.

This post was written by Matthew B. Grunert  & Carolyn A. Exnicios of Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP.,© 2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Forum 

President Trump’s Third, Indefinite Travel Ban Takes Blow from Courts

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have temporarily blocked the implementation of President Trump’s most recent travel ban, which was issued by Presidential Proclamation on September 24, 2017 (Proclamation) and set to take effect October 18, 2017. The more sweeping ruling by the federal court in Hawaii blocks implementation of the Proclamation as to all countries except Venezuela and North Korea, and the decision by the Maryland federal court declares the ban unenforceable toward those individuals with a bona fide relationship to a person or entity in the United States (U.S.).

Essentially, the Proclamation imposes certain restrictions on the entry of nonimmigrants and immigrants who are nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. The type of restriction varies from country to country and the restrictions are of indefinite duration. The Proclamation was allegedly crafted based on recommendations by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pursuant to Executive Order 13780, which included a requirement for a global review of each foreign government’s information sharing practices, policies, and capabilities.

For a detailed analysis of the Proclamation, which is President Trump’s third attempt at instituting a travel ban, please click here.

What Are the Takeaways from the Two Decisions?

The Hawaii Decision: U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled that the Proclamation likely exceeds the scope of presidential authority permitted by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended. His ruling is effective nationwide and prohibits implementation of the Proclamation’s provisions, except as to nationals of North Korea and Venezuela.

The Maryland Decision: U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang found that the Proclamation likely violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution as well as the INA. As for the scope of the injunction issued by the Maryland district court, Judge Chuang ruled that the Proclamation is blocked as it would apply to those with a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. This language echoes that used by the U.S. Supreme Court when it temporarily restored President Trump’s second travel ban issued by Executive Order (E.O.) back in June of this year. In that decision, the Supreme Court temporarily allowed implementation of the E.O. but eliminated from its purview those with a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Where Are We Headed?

These court actions are just the beginning of what is anticipated to be a protracted legal battle that may very likely head to the Supreme Court yet again. The Supreme Court was positioned to hear oral arguments on the legality of an earlier iteration of the travel ban this month. One of those cases has been dismissed, and the other will likely be dismissed as well. Both of the cases that were set for argument this month were based on the decisions of these same two federal courts that have issued injunctions on the Proclamation. This travel ban battle is far from over.

What Should Employers Do?

It is unlikely that the Proclamation in its current form will have much of an effect on employers because the current pool of affected travelers is very small. It is important to remember that the Proclamation is still in effect for certain government officials from Venezuela seeking visitor visas as well as travelers from North Korea who do not have bona fide relationships with persons or entities in the U.S.

U.S. consulates still exercise, however, a great deal of discretion in adjudicating visa applications. Thus, while the Proclamation may be “mostly dead” for now, individuals from the restricted countries should expect increased scrutiny and prepare for it accordingly with counsel. Additionally, we are just at the beginning stages. An appeals court or the Supreme Court could ultimately reinstate the Proclamation or a portion of its content. Thus, careful pre-planning for visa applications is crucial.

Here are a few things that an employer can do:

  1. Assess travel plans for employees of affected nationalities based on implementation.
  2. Consider the ability of those who are dual nationals to travel on a non-restricted country (under the ban) passport.
  3. Consider rescheduling meeting locations and using internet-based meeting options.
  4. When necessary, compile documentation and information for a potential waiver application under the standards set forth in the Proclamation even though it is not in effect in full, such documentation may be required to withstand the heightened scrutiny that will likely continue to be applied toward individuals from these targeted countries.
This post was written by Heather L. Frayre of Dickinson Wright PLLC., © Copyright 2017
For more Immigration legal analysis go to The National Law Review

The Politics of Tragedy – New Employment Rights Proposed for Bereaved Parents

You know it’s time to re-issue your employment legislation when the nearest available section number for the insertion of an amendment into the Employment Rights Act is Section 171ZZ. Though it might sound like a bottom-rank Star Wars droid, that little fellow is actually the proposed product of a new Bill on time off work for parents who lose children, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill.

No one can question the lasting devastation of the death of a child, but what evidence is there that we really need still more employment legislation to ensure that the parent has some time to mourn? So far as is apparent from recent speeches on the matter (go to www.theyworkforyou.com to see who has said what in Parliament on the point), the sponsoring MP has no direct evidence of time off not being granted by an employer in those circumstances. Instead he relies on an unattributed story from another MP about someone in Scotland who was told on the death of his new baby that as he would therefore no longer need the balance of his paternity leave, he was expected to return to work. If true, this is obviously grim beyond words, but no Employment Tribunal on earth would support a dismissal on those grounds and so it seems scant grounds indeed for this new legislation. Any employer which would say such a thing at that time is hardly likely to pay attention to some obscure Westminster regulation anyway.

All that said, what about the proposal itself? Running to 18 pages, a full third of them consequential amendments to other statutory provisions, the Bill sets out a scheme with distressing parallels in terms of complexity and rank over-engineering with the Shared Parental Leave rules, including the frankly appalling proposition, that the employer should be entitled to ask for proof of the child’s death as a condition of granting the leave.

Key points so far, bearing in mind that the Bill is merely an enabling framework, not the detailed regulations due to be made under it:

  • “Child” is anyone under 18 and likely to include stillbirths after 24 weeks of pregnancy. “Parent” may include step-parents and others with established caring relationships above and beyond the biological parents.
  • The minimum period of leave will be two weeks, to be taken in whole weeks (but not necessarily consecutively) within eight weeks from the passing of the child.
  • Like maternity absence, you keep all your terms and conditions (and obligations) of employment over the absence period except in relation to remuneration.
  • There is a hint that the employer’s ability to dismiss the employee during the absence period may be limited and/or there may be an obligation on the employer to offer alternative employment. I imagine that this may end up looking like the Regulation 10 rules in the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations around redundancy and priority for redeployment during maternity leave. A dismissal in breach of those rules in likely to be automatically unfair.
  • The right to time off has no prior service condition but Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay will by a new Section 171ZZ6(2)(b) – I am not making this up, I promise – only be available to those with six months’ prior continuous service.
  • Eligibility for SPBP may also be conditional on appropriate prior written notices being given to the employer of the week or weeks for which it is to be paid. I would take the view that giving an express form of notice to my employer would be the last thing on my mind if my world had just fallen apart through the loss of a child, so you would at least hope that any such notice could be retrospective.
  • SPBP will be deemed included in any continuation of the employee’s salary over the absence period and by Section 171ZZ10 you will not be able to contract out of paying it or make the employee contribute to it.

Losing a child is a horrible thing but this fairly overt attempt to turn grief into political capital is neither necessary nor fit for purpose. We must hope, for the benefit of both employers and the very people it is designed to protect, that if the Bill makes law at all, the implementing measures greatly declutter the provisions which it currently proposes.

This post was written by David Whincup of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP., © Copyright 2017
For more Labor & Employment legal analysis go to The National Law Review