Baby Loss Awareness Week is held annually from 9 to 15 October. It’s a special opportunity to mark the lives of babies lost in pregnancy or at or soon after birth. The aim is to share how the pregnancy and baby loss community is there for people every step of the way, during and after loss, and to provide support and information to anyone affected by pregnancy loss, however recent or long ago.
Pregnancy and baby loss are far more widespread than many people think, with an estimated one in four pregnancies sadly ending in loss. However, research shows workplace support for people experiencing pregnancy or baby loss is significantly lacking, especially considering the majority of these losses happen to individuals who are of working age.
Implement pregnancy and baby loss policies
Implementing a pregnancy loss policy and manager guidance will help to make it less of a taboo subject and may make it easier for anyone affected to feel they can ask for support. Providing guidance and sign-posting support to everyone in the organisation will also help to raise awareness, remove any possible stigma, and ensure employees understand what support is available. It’s important to consider including provisions that recognise the impact on partners of those who have suffered a miscarriage, still birth or baby death too.
Pay while off
If an expectant mother loses her baby after the 24th week of pregnancy, then she will still be entitled to her full maternity leave and pay. Partners may also be eligible for paternity leave and pay. Again, if a baby is lost after the 24th week of pregnancy, then parents and their partners will be entitled to Parental Bereavement Leave. This is a period of two weeks paid leave. This leave can be taken in addition to maternity and paternity leave and should be taken once the maternity leave or paternity leave period ends.
If an expectant mother loses her baby before the 24th week of pregnancy, then any time off would more than likely be as sick leave. If company sick pay is not available, this will be paid at Statutory Sick Pay. Again, if as a Company you offer Bereavement Leave, you can offer this to any grieving employee effected. Remember, if sick pay or paid leave isn’t the norm – there is nothing stopping senior managers from using their discretion!
Offering a phased return
For many parents, a gradual return to work, starting with shorter days or weeks, could give them a chance to see what they can handle emotionally. Being flexible about working from home could be helpful too, if that’s possible.
Communicate, offer your sympathy and condolences. Let them know you are there and that you are thinking of them. Try to understand their support network and whether they have the option of taking up bereavement counselling at the right time. You might also have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which offers additional advice or access to mental health support, so investigate this and let them know about this so they can choose to access this if they wish.
Managing grief triggers
There are likely to be triggers for grief, whether they are immediate or in the future. For example, a colleague might visit during their maternity leave, or there may be pregnancy announcements. If possible, it may help to warn them before someone sends out a pregnancy announcement via email.
Of course, you can’t prevent these but being aware and sensitive to it will help your employee or team member. Important dates (such as due dates or the anniversary of the loss) can also be difficult. If you can, check-in with them and see if you can help make things easier as often, just remembering and recognising the date can help.
For further information on Baby Loss Awareness Week see the link to their website here for further information https://babyloss-awareness.org/. If you need bespoke support for your employees whether for policy development, training or employee assistance programmes, please contact us here.