Running from 9-15 October this year, Baby Loss Awareness Week looks to support bereaved parents, as well as raise awareness about pregnancy and baby loss. Here, Helen Burgess takes a look at how employers can support employees who have experienced baby loss within their family.
UK pregnancy and baby charity Tommy’s estimates that a fifth of pregnancies end in a miscarriage and that one in 100 women in the UK experience recurrent miscarriages (three or more in a row). The women who experience such loss are usually of working age and are therefore likely to be in employment.
A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks. 24 weeks is a key date in the employment context, as a loss before this date does not entitle the woman, partner or intended parent in a surrogacy to any time off work (including maternity leave). It is solely at the discretion of the employer whether or not to allow any time off work for the employee to grieve for their loss. Time off work may be needed to grieve, and physically recover, for those who suffer baby loss during pregnancy. As each circumstance is unique, a much broader and holistic approach is needed.
What is clear is that this is an extremely sensitive topic for affected employees and their employers to navigate, which is why the ‘Workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss – a guide for people professionals’ guide from CIPD, which Gateley Legal contributed to, is such a valuable and must-read paper for all employers.
Organisations wishing to provide a culture of psychological safety for their staff around baby loss will find the guide easy to follow, as well as implement in their workplaces.
An empathetic and supportive policy or approach to miscarriage will help foster employee loyalty, trust and wellbeing. This can be achieved by setting out bereavement time off, referencing partners’ loss, using inclusive and non-gendered language, providing links to support (internally and externally) and including the document in a sensitive place (not as part of the family-friendly suite of policies around maternity/ paternity/ shared parental leave).
As with all policies/ approaches, this must be a working document which evolves over time, led by employees and informed by their experiences.
At the time of writing, the proposed Miscarriage Leave Bill, which would allow employees three days’ paid miscarriage leave, is working its way through Parliament. If enacted employers would have to afford time off to those who have experienced a miscarriage. ‘Good’ employers will already offer bereavement leave following a miscarriage and any who currently don’t may want to get ahead of the curve. This will not only help their employees and create an inclusive and supportive workplace but will also encourage retention and increase attraction of future candidates; it’s the right thing to do all round.