In the UK, it is estimated that there are around 250,000 miscarriages each year and 1 in every 4 pregnancies will end in loss. When you consider that most people looking to start or grow their family will be of working age, it’s safe to assume that many of these losses will be suffered within the workplace. However, despite the prevalence of miscarriage and baby loss within the workplace, few organisations have specific policies or support in place for those going through this, often highly traumatic, experience.
Next week marks Baby Loss Awareness Week 2023 and according to recent research conducted by the CIPD, 70% of those who experienced pregnancy or baby loss said they felt unsupported by their line manager and only 37% of the employers surveyed had any policies in place to support pregnancy and baby loss.
The Miscarriage Associate has introduced a pregnancy loss pledge to urge employers to introduce leave for those experiencing pregnancy or baby loss. However, currently there is no legislation that provides a statutory entitlement to paid leave for parents of a baby that is lost before the 24th week of pregnancy. For many employees struggling with this loss, their only option is to take sick leave.
Organisations don’t need to wait for government mandates to be passed, they have the power to put in place a clear framework of support and procedures of their own in this area. In so doing they can drive meaningful change. Its also important to appreciate that pregnancy and baby loss do not just happen to women and therefore any support offered needs to also recognise partners. They will also be grieving whilst also trying to provide help and support to their partner.
If you want to recognise miscarriage and baby loss in your business or workplace, there are things that you can do. A separate policy on pregnancy loss is a good first step. Its far more effective to have a standalone policy in this area than incorporate it into an existing compassionate leave or family friendly policy. This means that those who are going through this distressing time are not needing to navigate policies in order to request leave or access support. A clear policy of paid leave and details of the help and support available will eliminate this concern. However, a policy alone will not help unless there is a commitment from the business to ensure it is communicated, supported and implemented correctly. A move to a more compassionate culture is essential so that employees feel able to talk about what has happened or is happening to them and ask for support. Its imperative that those experiencing such a traumatic event are given time to grieve and are not being pressurized into returning to work before they are ready.
Line Manager Training
Training line managers in how to deal with providing support in this area is also an important step. While line managers cannot be expected to perform the role of a counsellor, they need to be approachable and able to build trust-based relationships with their teams so that people feel able to reach out for support. Line managers should know how to have difficult conversations on this subject, provide support with empathy and compassion as well as signpost individuals to wider external support where required. Considering things such as flexible working, workplace adjustments and homeworking are all useful tools that the employee should feel able to discuss and access if necessary. Any framework put in place should recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all in this area and all employees affected will grieve differently and require different elements of support.
Access to an employee assistance programme that provides counselling in this area is a valuable source or support but if your organisation doesn’t provide this, signposting staff to external specialist charity organisations such as The Miscarriage Association or Tommy’s can also help.
As well as being the right thing to do, there is also a business benefit to supporting your staff in this way. Research shows that employees who feel supported by their organisation are far more likely to stay with the business for the longer term.
If your business needs help in this area, HR Overload can help you formulate an effective miscarriage and baby loss framework for your business. Please get in touch to see how we can help.