Miscarriage is often kept quiet, leading sufferers to feel unable to discuss it with their employer. We take a closer look at the firms making it easier for employees to get support when experiencing a miscarriage and afterwards.
Miscarriages are extremely common, with an estimated 1 in 8 known pregnancies ending with a loss1. Despite their frequency, the topic remains taboo: many sufferers describe feeling as though they are unable to discuss their bereavement, particularly in the workplace.
A significant contributor to this lack of discussion is that the majority of pregnancy losses happen in the first trimester, usually before the pregnancy is announced. While this contributes to many people feeling unable to speak about miscarriage more generally, it is especially heightened in the workplace, where employees choose not to disclose their miscarriage for a variety of reasons. In particular, many are keen to hide the fact that they are hoping to have a child from their employer due to fears of pregnancy- or parenting-based discrimination (which, while illegal under employment law, is still very much in place – something which UK charity Pregnant Then Screwed refers to as the ‘motherhood penalty’)2.
Under current law, if a baby is stillborn before the end of the 24th week of pregnancy it is treated as a miscarriage – for which employees do not qualify for parental leave or pay. Legally, those who suffer miscarriage can only ask their employer to provide compassionate or sick leave; ask to take annual leave; or agree to a period of unpaid leave. A recent push for paid miscarriage leave – which has resulted in the Miscarriage Leave Bill awaiting a second reading in the House of Commons3 – highlights the lack of care and understanding for women experiencing miscarriage while juggling work, and many firms have taken the initiative in offering more support and leave for those experiencing miscarriage.
Within the financial service industry, as in almost all other industries, there is still work to be done on policies concerning women’s health and well-being. Miscarriage – at all stages of pregnancy – is one area which could have a transformative effect on how inclusive workplaces are for women. As well as starting a conversation about miscarriage, removing the sense of secrecy which prevents employees from seeking support, employers must also put their support into concrete policy and management decisions.
Paid leave allows women to process their loss and heal physically, although it appears that there remains a stigma around paid leave for miscarriage. As MP Angela Crawley stated during the debate on miscarriage leave, “Grief is not a holiday” - before going on to assert that companies should be ready to put systems in place that give women time to grieve their loss, and rest from the mental and physical trauma of miscarriage, returning to work when they feel is right, rather than having their leave dictated by their finances or available annual leave.
Below, we explore some examples of businesses in financial services setting a new standard for pregnancy loss-related leave, leading the way for a shift in how miscarriage is handled in the workplace.
TSB has been a notable leader regarding women’s health. In their article ‘TSB Pledges Equal Parental Leave, Miscarriage Leave and Infertility & Menopause Support in New Employee Support Package’ published in December last year, Liz Ashford, Human Resources Director stated: “We also want to offer our colleagues compassionate and relevant policies for when they are experiencing challenging moments in their lives. Our new policies around pregnancy loss, parental bereavement, infertility, and menopause are designed to give colleagues the support they need when it matters most.”
TSB offer their staff a minimum of two weeks’ compassionate leave on full pay for any colleague affected by parental or pregnancy-related bereavement or loss, and has developed infertility related support designed to give colleagues the support they need ‘when it matters most’4.
Landbay also introduced what has been called a ‘ground-breaking’ miscarriage leave policy, which states that:
- If a loss is experienced in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, women can take two weeks leave.
- If the loss is between 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, the time off goes up to four weeks. For 20 to 24 weeks, the leave is up to six weeks.
- Above 24 weeks the baby is classed as stillborn, and women are legally entitled to full parental leave.
- In addition, partners will be able to take two weeks’ leave to support their loved one. If the loss is after 24 weeks, they can take up to four weeks of paid leave5.
Monzo and Citigroup
Digital bank Monzo received praise last year for introducing a miscarriage policy, with the bank stating: “Monzo takes the mental health of its staff incredibly seriously”. As part of the policy, employees who experience pregnancy loss, ‘including stillbirth, miscarriage, and abortion,’ will have up to 10 days of additional paid leave. Monzo also made a push to ‘recognise that pregnancy loss doesn't just affect women or heterosexual partners,’ by offering leave to workers who are partners or surrogate mothers6.
Citigroup are following suit, offering two weeks of paid leave to help deal with bereavement and the challenges of a death in the family or pregnancy loss at any stage.
What else can the finance industry do?
While employers across the country await the second reading of the Miscarriage Leave Bill – which will, perhaps, expedite change – employers across all industries can proactively consider their own policies and level of support. By introducing policies that support those who experience miscarriage, employers are not only helping ensure that all forms bereavement are treated with sensitivity and compassion, but also start a much-needed conversation that helps to break down the taboo of pregnancy loss.
Digital Marketing Assistant
Barcadia Media Limited
|27th October 2022 at 10:30am