It is estimated that one in five pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. The loss of a pregnancy is a distressing and traumatic experience, and it is also something which often remains shrouded in secrecy, especially at work. Despite this, in many states in the US and countries worldwide, neither parent has any legal entitlement to any form of leave of absence or pay following their loss.
InSeptember 2021, Pittsburgh became the first US city to pass legislation providing employees and their partners with up to three days of leave due to issues such as miscarriage, unsuccessful IVF treatment or termination. The leave applies equally to parents regardless of gender, as well as to same-sex couples. Though others have since followed suit, it remains the case that the vast majority of employees in the US receive no protection at all.
In the UK, after 24 weeks, the loss of a pregnancy is considered a stillbirth and, accordingly, parents will qualify for two weeks of statutory parental bereavement leave, together with maternity or paternity leave and pay, where eligible. If parents suffer a miscarriage before 24 weeks, they receive no statutory leave at all. A difference of just one day.
Asa result, grieving parents often have no alternative than to take sick leave or use their holiday entitlement to allow them not only to grieve but, for the mother, to recover physically.
So, as employees are increasingly prioritising their own welfare over salary or career progression, and as employers put employee wellbeing at the top of their “must have” list, what can you do now to provide further support?
Act now - Whilst many employees are not yet legally entitled to miscarriage bereavement leave, there is nothing to stop employers prioritising their employees’ health and welfare and introducing this on a voluntary basis.
Signpost existing benefits - Ensure employees are aware of the support already available to them, such as an existing EAP, private counselling offered by healthcare providers, specialist bereavement support or signposting to other resources.
And consider new ones – Life stage benefits have become increasingly popular over recent years and some of these can provide personalised support and assistance adjusted to what the employee is experiencing. Check your current offering remains up to date and competitive and provides support when it matters most.
Consider terminology – Make sure that any wording used does not have the potential to cause further distress. Using words such as “maternity” or “parental”bereavement leave may have a triggering effect.
Review policies – Consider offering not only time off following a bereavement, but perhaps also flexible working arrangements, a phased return or other allowances and adaptations for when the individual is ready to start working again. Make sure policies and training are inclusive and not centred solely on women or what is considered the typical or nuclear family.
The lack of recognition of what is an immensely sad and distressing time often exacerbates stress and anxiety for parents or intended parents. With many employees now researching the benefits a company offers prior to accepting a role, savvy and empathetic employers will not wait to be told before actioning these important steps for their valued employees.
Losing loved ones and coping with grief are unfortunately a part of life. However, despite the fact that grief is one of life’s only true shared experiences, we are notoriously bad at talking about it. In honor of World Book Day (March 2nd),we have compiled our top recommended books for coping with grief and loss.