Why your company needs a pregnancy loss policy (and how to set one up)

In this article, we'll take you through through the different types of pregnancy loss an employee can experience, the various workplace challenges faced by those who go through pregnancy loss, and the role of a policy in providing support for employees.

7
min read
Published
16/2/2024

Trigger warning: Pregnancy loss, miscarriage and baby loss

In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss during pregnancy or birth.

There’s no right or wrong way to feel about pregnancy loss and it can happen under lots of different circumstances. Some people may miscarry early on, others may experience pregnancy loss further down the line. For some it could come as a total shock, others may have been going through fertility problems for a while, and others may be looking at a pregnancy termination for important health reasons.

However, for lots of people, pregnancy loss can have a big impact on both their personal and professional lives, particularly in the absence of workplace support. It's crucial there are the right structures in place at work to support any employees impacted by a pregnancy loss.

We've seen more and more companies beginning to recognise the impact that pregnancy loss can have on their employees, but we still have a long way to go as a society in normalising open conversation around pregnancy loss, especially when it impacts so many people.

In this article, we'll walk through the different types of pregnancy loss, explore the various workplace challenges faced by employees who experience it, and look at the role of a policy in providing support.

What are the different types of pregnancy loss?

Every experience of pregnancy loss is unique, and only those affected by a particular incident of baby loss can properly understand what it's like. As a manager, it's important not to group all incidents of pregnancy loss together, but recognise the different causes and timelines, and the varying impacts they can have on individuals.

Here are the key terms you should know about as an HR Manager, so that you can best support your employees if they experience pregnancy or baby loss.

  1. Miscarriage and late miscarriage: This loss takes place before 24 weeks of pregnancy. A late miscarriage takes place between the 12th and 24th week.
  2. Stillbirth: The loss takes place after 24 weeks of pregnancy and before birth.
  3. Ectopic pregnancy: A pregnancy which implants outside the uterus, commonly in the fallopian tube, that typically results in termination for medical reasons.
  4. Molar pregnancy: A rare condition in which abnormal tissue develops inside the uterus instead of an embryo.
Why is the 24th week so important?

The 24th week of pregnancy marks the point at which a foetus has the potential to survive outside the womb. Before the 24th week, lungs and other vital organs are not mature enough for life to sustain itself. Beyond this point, there is a higher chance of survival if a baby is born prematurely, and so it's seen as a different stage of pregnancy.

You can watch our webinar here on how to create a work environment that best supports its employees through baby loss.

The need for pregnancy loss support in the workplace

Workplace support for employees is an essential part of creating a genuinely happy workforce who know their employers are there for them.

Pregnancy loss may see like a very personal and private experience, and of course it can be, but support structures are key to creating a workplace environment with an open and supportive culture.

  • According to a survey carried out by Tommys, 1 in 5 people who had experienced pregnancy loss received no support from their employers, and only 40% felt their manager showed an understanding of the associated challenges.
  • A 2022 CIPD report found that only 25% of employees receive paid parental bereavement leave following baby loss, and just 37% have formal pregnancy loss policies in place.
  • UK statistics on miscarriage indicate that around 20,000 women in the UK will experience pregnancy loss while at work.

Four reasons pregnancy loss support in the workplace is important

The emotional wellbeing of your employees

According to Tommy's, 25% of people who experience pregnancy loss will go on to experience post-traumatic stress syndrome. In some cases, employees are forced to leave their roles for mental health reasons related to pregnancy loss. Support in the workplace can help employees get through what can be a very difficult and emotional time.

Building an open and supportive workplace culture

Workplace support for pregnancy loss demonstrates a company's value in its employees' wellbeing and commitment to promoting a compassionate, open and inclusive culture. From a business perspective, establishing a positive working culture is important in retaining and attracting the best people, and developing an environment where employees are supported through all reproductive health challenges.

Practical considerations

Employees may need time off to deal with the physical and emotional effects of pregnancy loss. This might involve taking compassionate leave or agreeing on more flexible working arrangements. Establishing supportive policies and procedures will let employees know exactly what they are entitled to and prevent any potential confusion.

Legal obligations for parental bereavement leave

In many countries including the UK, employers have a legal responsibility to provide reasonable adjustments such as parental bereavement leave. It's important to be aware of these as some company's have been accused of pregnancy discrimination.

Why does your company need a pregnancy loss policy?

Generally speaking, establishing policies is an important practice at any company. By having a pregnancy loss policy in place, your employees will know exactly what support is available to them. Here's why we believe a pregnancy loss policy specifically is important.

  • It will guide your employees towards the right support - You may well have great support structures in place for pregnancy loss or baby loss at your company, but if your employees don't have access to these policies or know where to find them, they won't be able to benefit from them.
  • It helps build a workplace that's inclusive and champions equality - A pregnancy loss policy will help ensure that all employees are treated equally and fairly should anything happen in their life that may affect their work.
  • It's important for employee wellbeing - Your policy will demonstrate that employee wellbeing is a priority for your company.
  • Legal compliance - Employees in the UK have legal rights to sick leave following a miscarriage and statutory maternity, paternity, and parental bereavement leave following a stillbirth. A policy can help ensure statutory rights are respected. For more information on an employee's rights following baby loss, maternity allowance, or support available through Maternity Action, please see this guide, or take a look at the points below.

As an employer, you can have a big impact on the mental and physical health of employees through the support you provide. A policy can help make sure you’re delivering on the support you promise and taking measures to support your employees through life's biggest challenges.

A step-by-step guide on what to include in your pregnancy loss policy

There’s no set rule or blueprint to writing a pregnancy loss policy; each will reflect a company’s values and the specific needs of it's employees. However, we have put together this checklist of considerations we think are important, just in case you're after some ideas to help you get started!

1. Make sure your policy is accessible

First and foremost, it’s important that your employees know where to find your policy so they can access the information they need and the support it directs them towards as quickly as possible.

2. Explain what is meant by pregnancy loss

It can be easy to assume people know exactly what a pregnancy loss can entail. By clarifying what is meant by pregnancy loss, employees will know straight away whether the policy applies to their particular situation. For more information on this, feel free to explore any of the terms listed below through the links provided.

3. The purpose of the pregnancy loss policy and why it’s important

To people who may not have experienced pregnancy loss themselves, the need for a pregnancy loss policy may not be so obvious. You can use this as an opportunity to explain its importance, highlight the support and guidance your company intends to deliver, and open up and normalise important topics around reproductive health.

4. Clarify who the policy is for

Let your employees know who is eligible to access the support described in the policy. This may include:

  • Employees who experience pregnancy loss. (You may want to include partners and surrogate mothers here)
  • Managers of employees who have suffered a baby loss
  • Colleagues who wish to support employees who have suffered a pregnancy loss

5. Make sure to separate your pregnancy loss policy from your fertility policy

At Fertifa, we work with a number of different companies to create policies that best reflect their values and serve the particular needs of their employees. Although related, fertility issues and pregnancy losses present distinct challenges and often require different forms of support. By separating your fertility and family-forming policy from your pregnancy loss policy, you’re recognising this difference, and ensuring your employees are being directed towards the right type of help.

6. Provide information on how managers can offer practical and emotional support

Some line managers may not know how to offer their support to employees experiencing pregnancy loss. This is completely understandable, especially if they have never experienced it themselves. Your policy can advise managers on how to do so, informing them of what training they can/will receive, how to behave in certain situations (for example, during pregnancy announcements of other employees), how to offer practical guidance, and where to signpost further help and support.

What advice and training for managers might look like

  • Point managers towards pregnancy loss awareness training - See our webinar on baby loss to better understand what it is and how it can affect employees
  • Equip managers with the appropriate tools to discuss pregnancy loss in a confidential and sensitive way - We understand it can be difficult to get this right. If you're concerned or unsure on how to approach the conversation, this guide by The Miscarriage Association offers some useful advice
  • Remind managers to treat parents and partners equally. Remember, anyone connected to an incident of pregnancy loss can be affected
  • Encourage managers to organise check-ins with employees who have experienced baby loss to make sure they are receiving the right support and access to suitable flexible working arrangements

7. Link your pregnancy loss policy to other policies

A pregnancy loss policy is not just a tick-box exercise in employee support. It should be implemented as part of a wider company move to support employees through all of life's biggest challenges. We would recommend looking at and reviewing all of your employee support policies, particularly your parental leave policy, sickness absence policy, fertility policy, bereavement policy, absence management policies or mental health and wellbeing policies.

8. Your policy should signpost external avenues of support

You may want to point your employees towards specialist support services such as The Miscarriage Association, Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, Sands, local Occupational Health Services, Citizens Advice, or any Employee Assistance Programmes you work with.

If you'd like to know more about the wonderful assessment and counselling services Employee Assistance Programmes can provide, please see this government guide.

Counselling

Counselling can be extremely valuable for anyone who has suffered a pregnancy loss. By signposting employees towards specialist counselling services, your policy can save them the time and stress of researching it themselves. Details like these can be valuable to an employee, especially during what is likely to be a distressing time. Here are some support and counselling services we recommend:

9. Be clear on what you're offering and what employees are entitled to

Leave period

At Fertifa, we would recommend offering 2 weeks of leave following a pregnancy loss or miscarriage, and then an evaluation of how the person is feeling. It's important to be aware that some people may require more than 2 weeks off, so try to be as flexible as you can.

Some policies, such as one published by Currys, have different leave accommodations for incidents of baby loss depending on whether they occur before or after the 24th week of pregnancy. They offer two weeks paid leave if the loss takes place before 24 weeks, and full parental leave rights for a baby loss after that point. This recognises that losses which take place during the later stages of a pregnancy can require a longer period of self-care and recovery, although it's important to remember this is by no means always the case.

Flexible working

Flexible working options following pregnancy loss can help lift any pressures an employee might feel to return to their previous working arrangements straight away. Here are some flexible working arrangements you might want to consider:

  • Phased return to work
  • Offer them the option to work from home, or other parts of the building when they're in the office
  • Reduced working hours so employees can attend external appointments and access the support they need
  • Adjust start times and finish times (so employees can avoid peak travel times, for example)

Returning to work

At this point in your policy, it may be helpful to explain once more that you understand how impactful pregnancy loss can be. This can help alleviate any pressures and expectations employees might feel to return to work after taking time off for pregnancy loss. Here are some things you might want to consider when discussing a return to work in your policy:

  1. Reassure the person affected that any set return dates are subject to change should they need more time off
  2. Offer adjustments such as flexible working arrangements or a phased return to work
  3. Have a meeting that allows them to explain which types of support would be most helpful to them
  4. Offer regular check-ins to make sure they are being supported adequately

We understand that pregnancy loss is a complex and sensitive topic, and that writing an inclusive policy that recognises the wide range of experiences is difficult. Remember to make clear that you are there to support employees through what can be a difficult time. To find out more about how Fertifa can help implement reproductive health support, for everything from fertility challenges to family-forming journeys to pregnancy loss, book in a call with our team 💜