Losing a baby is a deeply personal experience that affects everyone differently and time is needed to process your emotions. When you feel comfortable enough to share your experience, family and friends can offer that much-needed support. However, talking about miscarriage with your employer can feel a little more daunting.
In this post, we take a look at the taboos around miscarriage, your workplace rights and valuable insight into how employers can promote employee wellbeing and support employees going through this challenging experience.
The recent news out of New Zealand has grabbed media attention, and for an exceptional reason. New Zealand’s parliament has unanimously approved legislation that would give couples who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth, three days paid leave from work, thus making a substantial impact on employee wellbeing.
Employers in New Zealand, and the UK, had already been required to provide paid leave in the event of stillbirth when a foetus is lost after a gestation of 20 weeks or more. However, the new legislation will expand that leave to anyone who loses a pregnancy at any point, removing any ambiguity. The measure, which was passed recently, is expected to become law in the coming weeks.
For more details on the current U.K laws around paid leave, take a look at the following gov.uk webpage.
Although miscarriages are surprisingly common (experienced by approximately one in four women), there continue to be inescapable taboos around the subject. This is partly because around 85% of miscarriages occur within the first trimester before most women publicly announce their pregnancies. This leaves many, like Meghan Markle, mourning the loss of a much-wanted baby that no one even knew about.
The infertility activist Katy Lindemann has called the early months “a sort of Schrödinger’s pregnancy” when women are expected to hedge their bets and accept miscarriages without a fuss. She points out that the 12-week rule imposes unnecessary and harmful secrecy around pregnancy loss, leaving women to cope alone just when they most need support and community.
Meghan has since spoken openly out about her loss in a NY article titled “ The Losses We Share ”, and last year, celebrity Chrissy Tiegen, shared her loss very openly on social media. These personal accounts from highly publicised women really count, but there is still a long way to go to break this taboo globally. In other parts of the world, miscarriages can put women in jail. More than a dozen women are in prison in El Salvador, charged with aggravated homicide under the country’s total ban on abortion, after suffering what they say were obstetric emergencies.
You may be wondering if (and how) you should tell your workplace about what is happening. You may not even want to tell your employer at all, as many women feel worried that they will face discrimination if they are known to be trying for a baby.
Despite your personal preference, every woman should be entitled to understand their rights and the support their employer should offer them. Some of these are legal rights that your workplace has to provide or they risk breaking the law. Miscarriage Association is a U.K charity that provides knowledge to help employee engagement and navigate a positive and support discussion about your return to work. Their website covers information on rights after a miscarriage, emotional support accompanied by a helpline number to ring for workplace advice.
According to Miscarriage Association “Managers and employees have told us they feel more comfortable when their rights and responsibilities are clear”. They suggest establishing a policy to ensure managers are offering employees the right support.
“It could be part of a larger document on pregnancy loss including miscarriage, ectopic and molar pregnancy, and also termination for medical reasons and stillbirth”. Miscarriage Association even shares a policy template containing an outline of what the policy should cover.
Whilst a policy is a great starting place, it is clear that organisations need to create a culture of trust and make it clear through action and policy that women planning a pregnancy will not face discrimination. Until this is done, it is unlikely that all women who suffer miscarriage will feel able to seek the support they need.
HR can play a role in starting these important conversations around pregnancy and miscarriage. Workplace events could also be a great opportunity to share new policies, start conversations and raise general awareness.
Creating a culture of compassion is vitally important for employers wanting to show their awareness and improve employee wellbeing. Pregnancy loss is an experience no one should have to go through but letting employees know they are valued, and that the company supports them through this painful time, can make a world of difference.
To continue supporting your staff with additional Staff Treats offers rewards and recognition as well as discounts on wellness, family days out, meal kits, and even groceries, so show your employees that you care about the culture of your company and with us today.