Losing a baby can be an extremely traumatic experience. If it happens to one of your employees, the chances are, work will be the last thing on their mind.
It’s not an uncommon situation. One in two hundred pregnancies results in a stillbirth (where a baby is lost after 24 weeks), and one in 90 are ectopic. Most shockingly, one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage, defined as the loss of a baby during the first 23 weeks.
Despite the prevalence of this issue, UK employment law doesn’t always account for the emotional upheaval that many parents feel after it occurs.
Parents are entitled to bereavement leave if a child under the age of 18 passes away, and this includes stillbirth. If the latter event occurs, parents can also access maternity and paternity leave and pay at the same rate as if the stillbirth hadn’t happened.
But what about when pregnancy loss occurs before 24 weeks - say, in the instance of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy? In this situation, parents have no legal entitlement to leave or pay.
You have a few options as an employer, all of which depend on your policies. You can offer discretionary leave under your compassionate leave policy, annual or even unpaid leave.
As an employment law and HR specialist, I suggest that all practice managers and owners attempt to offer paid leave to all employees who have experienced baby loss - no matter the stage of their pregnancy.
Many would agree that all forms of baby loss are equally as traumatic. As such, expectant parents who lose their baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or stillbirth should be allowed equal time and space to grieve this unexpected loss.
Your parental leave policy, absence policy or bereavement leave policy should include a section about pregnancy loss. It should state that you’re willing to make reasonable adjustments to work schedules and pay for employees who find themselves in such circumstances.
Bear in mind that employees who experience baby loss - especially in the first 12 weeks - may not wish to discuss it with you or their other colleagues. Policies are especially important for making employees feel supported in this instance.
This topic speaks to the ongoing discussion around women’s health at work more generally - especially issues like menopause. All practice managers and owners should acknowledge such life events in their employment policies and procedures.
If you would like to know more about how to support colleagues going through menopause, read my recent blog here.
Alternatively, if you need help shaping your policies around baby loss, get in touch with me to set up a call.