Pregnancy loss and work: supporting your team

Two people holding hands to support the grief of pregnancy loss

N/B: The contents of this article includes discussion of potentially triggering topics including miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy and neonatal loss.

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In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss - either during pregnancy or birth. This means that the chances that someone you know will experience this are high - be that a friend, family member, or colleague. 

Pregnancy loss can be devastating, no matter what stage in the pregnancy it happens. So having a policy in place to support those going through this is super important, especially since it can be a totally different experience for everyone. 

Read on to find out more about pregnancy loss, its effects & what you can do to support your team during this time. 

What is pregnancy loss?

Pregnancy loss is when an unborn baby dies. It can happen at any point in the pregnancy and for many different reasons.

Pregnancy loss includes (but is not limited to):

  • Miscarriage - loss of pregnancy before 24 weeks.
  • Stillbirth - when a baby dies after 24 weeks of pregnancy. 
  • Abortion - when a pregnancy is ended through medicine or surgical procedure.
  • Ectopic pregnancy - when a fertilised egg implants outside of the womb.
  • Neonatal Loss - when a baby dies within 28 days of birth.
  • Molar pregnancy - when the fertilised egg and placenta cannot develop normally due to a problem with the egg.

What is the law around pregnancy loss in the UK?

If pregnancy loss happens after the 24th week, the employee is entitled to take full maternity leave and pay. At this point in the pregnancy, the loss is considered a stillbirth. In the UK maternity leave is 52 weeks and maternity pay is 39 weeks. It is up to the employee when they want to return to work, but can give 8 weeks’ notice before coming back to work early.

If the baby dies within 28 days after birth, the loss is considered a neonatal death. In this case, the employee is also entitled to full maternity leave and pay. 

Parents who’ve experienced pregnancy loss after 24 weeks are legally entitled to 2 weeks of Parental Bereavement leave following maternity and paternity leave. During this 2-week period both parents are protected under the Equality Act 2010, section 18, from discrimination, dismissal, unfair dismissal, and redundancy.

Although loss at any point in a pregnancy can be extremely difficult for people experiencing it, unfortunately, the law doesn’t account for this. If you are unwell following a miscarriage, you are entitled to statutory sick leave and pay. This has to be certified by a doctor.

Why is a pregnancy loss policy important? 

A pregnancy loss policy helps drive forward the conversation in the workplace and encourages employers to acknowledge the difficulties faced by those going through pregnancy loss. 

The emotional toll from pregnancy loss can often affect an employee’s ability to work. Recognising this as an employer is important as it can determine the level of support you offer, and can positively influence their road to recovery.

Pregnancy loss policies recognise that grief can take many forms. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, and the timing can be unpredictable. Having support already in place for when your team may need it the most is so important for their wellbeing. 

The unpredictability of loss also means that it can often be difficult to navigate how to approach it at work. If there’s already a policy, it can take some of the stress off. 

Finally, a pregnancy loss policy signals to your team that their feelings are valid and that it’s okay to need support. This will go a long way in creating a more open environment where employees feel comfortable asking for help. 

How to support your team through pregnancy loss

The effects of pregnancy loss can make working as usual feel impossible. It’s our responsibility as employers to make sure that we do everything we can to support our team throughout this difficult time.

Please note: This list is not exhaustive and you can always add to your policy to make it the most relevant to your team’s needs.

  1. Paid Leave - this may seem like common sense, but since the law only protects those who lose a pregnancy after 24 weeks, offering paid time off no matter what stage the loss occurs can really make a positive impact.

    At Ben, we offer our team 10 days of compassionate leave per year in addition to any statutory leave to accommodate difficult circumstances like pregnancy loss and parental bereavement. This means that our team can take time out to grieve, or to do whatever it is they need to feel better. 
  1. Paid leave for medical appointments - it’s important to remember that pregnancy loss can come with medical complications and these can vary from person to person. Providing fully paid time off to both parties in these circumstances is a great way to show you care.
  2. Flexible working - this can be so important for team members going through pregnancy loss. Flexible arrangements can include changes to hours of work, remote working, or even switching your camera off during video meetings.
  3. Private Medical Care - sometimes complications or long term issues can arise from pregnancy loss. Offering your team private medical care can offer peace of mind that they’re covered in every circumstance.
  4. Mental Health Support - pregnancy loss can put a lot of strain on someone’s mental health. Mental health care can be a really impactful way of supporting your people through this. At Ben, our team can access 24/7 mental health support through Oliva

Useful resources for pregnancy loss

If you’re looking for support for pregnancy loss, there’s lots of great resources available that offer information and advice. 

Sands UK - Stillbirth and neonatal death charity - offering support to those grieving and funding research to better understand the causes. 

Tommy’s - Charity supporting baby loss research.

Misscarriage Association UK - Provide support for those experiencing miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and molar pregnancy. 

Child Bereavement UK - Offering support to families when a child dies.

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