It is estimated that one in four pregnancies in the UK end in loss either during pregnancy or birth, so it is likely we all know someone who has experienced this type of grief or it may be something that you yourself have experienced. Although pregnancy loss is surprisingly common, losing a baby through miscarriage is still quite a taboo topic. Many women wait until around the 12 week mark to announce a pregnancy, and as the majority of miscarriages happen during the first 12 weeks, it is something that is not talked about at all, including in the workplace.
Recently it was reported that Monzo had introduced a new policy to provide employees 10 days of paid leave for pregnancy loss. Crucially this will apply regardless of when in the pregnancy it happens and will apply in the event of abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth. It also covers either partner ‘recognising that pregnancy loss doesn’t just affect women or heterosexual couples’. This follows an announcement made by Channel 4 in April 2021 that they had launched their own pregnancy loss policy to support employees affected by pregnancy loss ‘regardless of the nature of their loss, and whatever their length of service’, Channel 4 have published their policy and made clear their commitment to end the stigma around women’s health issues. These are really forward thinking policies, which more and more companies are looking to introduce.
Ethical employers should be looking to introduce their own policies covering pregnancy loss. Having a written framework available to employees on this topic will encourage them to speak to their line managers/HR and get the support they need. The benefits of providing a supportive workplace are well known, not only does this have a positive impact on employee wellbeing, but can also mean employees feel able to return to work sooner and have a greater sense of commitment to the company.
The impact of pregnancy loss both on physical and mental health should also not be underestimated by employers. If you have an employee who has taken time off for pregnancy loss it is important to listen to their needs in order to support them back into the workplace, for example:
- Keep in touch with the employee but avoid pressuring them into returning to the office before they are ready;
- After a pregnancy loss an employee may need to attend further medical appointments and employers need to be aware of this;
- Consider whether there are any reasonable adjustments you could make to support their return to the office (e.g. an employee who has suffered a pregnancy loss may not feel comfortable sitting next to a pregnant colleague, and may prefer to sit at a different desk for a while);
- Make sure that any sick leave relating to pregnancy loss is counted separately and does impact their sickness absence record (this type of leave is protected under the Equality Act 2010).
In addition you should talk to your employee about whether they would like their colleagues to know, and if they do, help communicate this information.
Template Pregnancy Loss Policy
SANDS (the stillbirth and neonatal death charity) runs an annual event to raise awareness in this area, and this year their ‘Always There campaign’ aimed to ensure that support is always there for every bereaved family. To mark SANDS awareness month we made available to all employers, our Pregnancy Loss Policy, which is based on a policy template created by the Miscarriage Association, with the aim of encouraging ethical employers to introduce their own policies about pregnancy loss. For employees, asking for help in these situations is never easy and having a policy in place is the first step towards supporting employees impacted by pregnancy loss. The policy is available to download for free here.