In an effort to support employees who have experienced pregnancy loss, Channel 4 launched a dedicated pregnancy loss policy in April.
It is designed to support both male and female employees through pregnancy loss – which includes, but is not limited to, miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion. As the first major organisation in the UK to do so, it has started an important conversation about whether more businesses should follow suit.
Currently, there are no compulsory employment policies that directly relate to a loss. Although paid parental bereavement leave was introduced in April 2020, it only applies to the death of a child under the age of 18 or to stillbirths. Those that have gone through a miscarriage or abortion are left without set support.
A stigma still surrounds the topic of pregnancy loss and often leads to parents keeping the news a secret.
New Zealand has introduced statutory leave following a loss, involving three days of paid leave. Although not very generous, it is a start in recognising that pregnancy loss is a type of grief at any stage and has also helped to bring the issue to the forefront of the discussion about employment rights and best practice.
Introducing a pregnancy loss policy
When putting something as sensitive as a pregnancy loss policy in place, it is sensible to consider:
- Inclusivity – extend entitlement to fathers and those using a surrogate to avoid discrimination claims.
- Eligibility – will the pregnancy loss policy apply from day one of an employee’s contract or is there going to be a qualifying period.
- The length of the leave – Channel 4 has opted for two weeks, but this is entirely up to the employer.
- The rate of pay – If statutory pay is preferred over full pay, then it must be decided which statutory pay the policy will coincide with.
- Notification – Perhaps the most delicate aspect of this policy, it must be treated with the utmost sensitivity. A doctor’s note may be required as proof, or the employee can self-certify.
Returning to work
The return-to-work process must also be considered. Offering a phased return – or flexible working ensures employees can take things at their own pace. Even smaller allowances such as more breaks throughout the day can help staff to feel more comfortable.
Employers may want to provide additional support in the form of counselling. Sensitivity from staff at all levels is vital, so it may be worthwhile including pregnancy loss in your annual equality and diversity training.
Hopefully, a policy will rarely be needed. Introducing a dedicated policy can help promote a positive workplace culture, leaving employees safe in the knowledge that work won’t have to be a worry should the worst happen.