How employers can support staff through pregnancy and baby loss

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Miscarriage and baby loss is a subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about, especially in the workplace. We consider why this needs to change and how employers can better support their employees.

Statistics from Tommy’s, the UK pregnancy and baby charity, 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.

Does an employer have to allow time off after a miscarriage?

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 to allow any time for the employee to grieve for their loss. For those experiencing premature baby loss, time off work may be needed to grieve, and physically recover from the loss. As each circumstance is unique, a much broader and holistic approach is needed.

What guidance is available?

That is why the guide from CIPD ‘Workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss – a guide for people professionals’ is such a valuable must-read for employers.

The five sections of the guide provide principles of best practice on how to:

  • raise awareness about the need for pregnancy/ baby loss to be recognised as an important workplace wellbeing issue;
  • create an open, inclusive and supportive culture;
  • develop an organisational framework to support employees experiencing pregnancy/ baby loss;
  • manage absence and leave with compassion and flexibility; and
  • equip line managers to support people with empathy and understanding.

Organisations wishing to provide a culture of psychological safety for their staff will find the guide, which Gateley Legal contributed to, easy to follow and implement in their workplaces.

An employer’s policy or approach to miscarriage will help foster employee loyalty, trust and wellbeing 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 and is led by employees, their experiences and what they need.

Proposed Miscarriage Leave Bill

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 . The Bill was due to have its second reading in December 2022 but this is now scheduled for March 2023. 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 to 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.

If you would like to talk to someone about the issues raised in this article. Contact a member of our team or the expert listed below.

This article has been reworked from the original published by Employer News

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