Earlier this year, New Zealand made headlines for a law that was commended on the global stage. The women-led country imposed a law announcing bereavement leave to mothers and their partners who had experienced pregnancy loss, including miscarriages and stillbirths, with three days of paid leave. This catapulted companies into following suit and coming to terms with the importance of offering leaves to their employees and supporting them during their difficult times.
However, the topic is still taboo in many western countries even though one in four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, according to the World Health Organisation. A study conducted by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development revealed that women with no history of depression are at risk for depressive symptoms for several years after a stillbirth.
Another study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found 29 percent of people who had a pregnancy loss in the first trimester had symptoms of post-traumatic stress one month later. The impact of losing a baby can also lead to post-traumatic stress in the partner who didn’t carry the child.
With more women joining the workforce, employers need to provide their employees with legal support if a pregnancy unexpectedly ends. Some companies limit this to only women while their male counterparts do not receive the same benefits. However, it is essential to bear in mind that the father has also lost his child and will need time off to deal with a spectrum of emotions to overcome the heart-wrenching news.
Changing The Norm
Monzo, the Digital bank, and several other companies are leading the charge against this pressing issue. Monzo’s new policy announced in May allows either partner affected to take up to two weeks additional paid leave. The bank said, “Monzo takes the mental health of its staff very seriously.”
The leave is also extended to partners or surrogate mothers. The bank added, “it recognizes that pregnancy loss doesn’t just affect women or heterosexual partners,” and goes beyond that to all parties involved.
How You Can Support Your Employees
Lead With Compassion
While dealing with an employee who recently suffered a pregnancy loss, be empathetic. They may not want to disclose their problem as it may be a sensitive topic to talk about or maybe be worried about potential discrimination. As employers, it is essential to acknowledge their loss and express support.
An employee Julia, who has experienced four miscarriages, shares her favourable experience with her company. “Each time this happened to us, my work asked me ‘how can we support you?’, they also made suggestions that they thought might help us, such as seeking mental health support or taking time off.
She continued, “My manager would check in with me to see how I was doing and how I was coping with work after being back. I was never made to feel as if taking time off was a problem, or that things should be back to normal straightaway. I am extremely grateful that my organization supported me.”
Create a supportive environment
These are several things organizations can do to make it easier for any member of the workforce who’s currently experiencing a loss. As a leader or manager, incorporate a miscarriage policy if the firm does not have one already. Miscarriage Association has excellent resources to help with drafting such policies.
Learning from other organizations is another great way to move ahead. For example, Channel 4 announced their policy, which encompasses miscarriage, stillbirth, and abortion. Beyond that, the policy gives individuals two weeks fully paid time off and additional paid leave for medical appointments along with access to flexible working and an array of resources, including counselling and a buddy scheme for when they return to work.
In conclusion, talking about their recent bereavement policy at Zip, Anna Buber-Farovich, Chief People Officer, said, “I have experienced pregnancy loss and I reflected on that policy change in New Zealand. The most important thing about that legislation is actually normalizing the conversation around pregnancy loss.”