Only a quarter (25 per cent) of employees have received workplace support in the form of paid compassionate leave following a pregnancy or baby loss, a report has found.
A survey of 295 employees who had experienced pregnancy or baby loss, conducted by the CIPD as part of its Workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss report, found that almost half (46 per cent) would have found paid leave beneficial.
The report also revealed that just one in three (37 per cent) organisations have formal policies to support employees who experience pregnancy or baby loss.
According to pregnancy charity Tommy’s, in the UK one in four pregnancies end in loss, and parents more than 24 weeks pregnant can take maternity or paternity leave. But Rosie Leverton, head of corporate partnerships at Tommy’s, highlighted that even early losses can take weeks to physically recover from, and “any loss can have a lifelong psychological impact”.
Leverton added that progress was being made by high-profile firms introducing pregnancy loss policies, but that “despite [it] affecting so many people on such a deep level, few workplaces currently have specific support in place for employees who lose babies”.
Additionally, only two in five (40 per cent) employees who experienced pregnancy or baby loss felt their manager showed understanding, and one in five (21 per cent) were not offered any help by their employer. This led to a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents considering quitting their jobs because of their work-related experiences with pregnancy or baby loss.
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Jill Miller, senior diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said pregnancy and baby loss was often a “hidden issue” in the workplace. “Employers need to create compassionate cultures to ensure anyone experiencing pregnancy or baby loss feels able to access the support they need,” she said, adding that it was essential the approach was underpinned by “empathy and inclusivity”.
In the report only a quarter (24 per cent) of the senior HR professionals and decision makers surveyed stated that their organisation encouraged an open and supportive climate to a great extent, where employees can talk about sensitive issues like pregnancy loss.
Dr Krystal Wilkinson, senior lecturer in HRM at Manchester Metropolitan University, agreed that employees who experience pregnancy or baby loss may be affected by substantial medical and physiological effects that may persist for a long time. “There are steps that organisations can take to encourage people to disclose this experience and ensure they get [the] appropriate, tailored support,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lisa Seagroatt, managing director of HR Fit for Purpose, said it was crucial for organisations to remember there were various problems outside of the office that impact employees’ wellbeing, and the “loss of a child, whether that is during pregnancy or after, is going to affect the mental health and wellbeing of both parents”.
She added that support at work was vital to help anyone with the recovery process, and HR professionals “need to work with business leaders to improve”.
Laura Tracey, employment partner at Freeths, said it was critical to keep in mind that pregnancy and child loss are very personal experiences that impact individuals in various ways, and that businesses should help their employees in a way that reflects this rather than attempting to “enforce strict guidelines on how employees should or should not handle their grief”.
Additionally, Ngozi Weller, director at Aurora Wellness, said employees experiencing the pain of pregnancy or baby loss needed time, care and respect: “Employers need to realise that not one size fits all, and employees going through something this painful do need time.
[The solution] must be figured out collaboratively with the affected person, and in conjunction with a policy that allows for that kind of flexibility.”