Why are UK workplaces lacking a miscarriage policy?

Digital marketer Hallam and Monzo are among the first UK businesses to introduce a miscarriage policy

UK-based digital marketing agency, Hallam, has introduced a miscarriage policy and follows in the steps taken by online bank Monzo that has also introduced this policy for employees.

The digital marketing agency is calling upon other businesses to follow suit and introduce policies that support their employees that have dealt with the trauma of miscarriage.

Hallam’s miscarriage policy includes five days’ compassionate leave for both women and men, paid leave for any associated medical appointments or fertility treatments, two days’ paid leave for the first menstruation after the event, access to Hallam’s ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ and access to professional counsel and a phased return to work with an initial meeting to discuss arrangements and adjustments.

Monzo’s miscarriage policy, introduced earlier this year, offers either partner up to ten days’ paid leave after a miscarriage, abortion, or stillbirth: “This also includes colleagues who are partners or surrogate mothers, recognising that pregnancy loss doesn’t just affect women or heterosexual couples,” they said.

Miscarriage – the statistics

With one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage and the fact that women’s employment has been steadily increasing (in June 2020, 72.7% of women aged 16–64 were employed compared to 52.8% in the first quarter of 1971), it’s likely that many working women have experienced it.

However, there is no governmental support for women at work and their partners who go through a miscarriage in the UK. Globally, only New Zealand and India have such legislation.

In the UK, a miscarriage which is counted in employment law as a loss before 24 weeks, after which it’s considered a stillbirth, means sufferers can’t claim maternity or paternity leave, meaning it’s up to employers to either offer them compassionate leave, annual leave, or unpaid holiday.

A study from 2020 by Imperial College London and Belgian university KU Leuven found that women who suffer a miscarriage can also experience “long-term symptoms of post-traumatic stress,” including “anxiety and depression symptoms” indicating that miscarriage support is a workplace mental health imperative too.

Why Hallam created the policy

Natasha Knowles, Project Delivery Team Lead at Hallam whose own experience with miscarriage inspired her to petition the company to create the policy, said: “I had a week off and came back full-time. It became apparent – very quickly – that it was too much too soon. I was still harbouring a lot of those initial feelings I had and I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. From there, I moved into a part-time role.

“During the week I had off, I spent a lot of time reading up on what the standard statutory rights were and how the UK compared to other countries. It was apparent that there is the equivalent of nothing in place here in the UK when it comes to supporting women and couples that go through miscarriages.

“In March, the news broke that New Zealand had amended its policy and introduced bereavement leave for miscarriages and stillbirths. That’s a stark contrast to the UK where there is nothing in place for couples that suffer a miscarriage during the first 24 weeks. Any absence is taken straight out of a sick pay allowance. That’s wrong. It angered me.

“As someone that has gone through this, I felt compelled to challenge it. So, I started with my own place of work, at Hallam. My line manager empowered me to champion this and put it in front of our Managing Director and, in turn, he told me to put a policy together. It was signed off immediately.”

To sign the petition that’s proposing a new law on statutory paid leave including a minimum of ten statutory days’ paid leave for women who suffer miscarriages, and their partners (men and women), click here.

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