Co-op employs almost 60,000 people in a wide range of customer facing and support centre roles across divisions that span from food to funeral care and insurance. It introduced its pregnancy loss policy in June 2021. This covers all types of pregnancy loss including miscarriage, molar pregnancy, embryo transfer loss and abortion or termination of a pregnancy.
Kerry Allison, people policy manager for Co-op, explains: “We carried out some work to better understand the support we could put in place for colleagues experiencing grief as a consequence of the pandemic. This identified pregnancy loss under 24 weeks as a gap, with colleagues saying that, when it came to support at work, it was treated more as sickness than as a bereavement. The findings were unexpected but it was something we wanted to address.”
Under the policy, anyone working at Co-op is able to access a range of support including paid leave whether it happens to them, their partner or the surrogate; an employee assistance programme, which gives access to counselling; GP appointments 24/7 through its virtual health service; and support and time off for medical appointments. “As a guide, we generally give up to five days paid leave but everyone’s situation is different,” says Allison. “Managers work with colleagues to decide on the level of support and time off that is needed.”
Co-op has also produced a guide for managers to help them support colleagues who experience pregnancy loss. This covers practical ways they can support them, including what to say and what not to say and what to consider when a colleague returns to work.
Feedback on the policy has been really positive. “Colleagues particularly value the emphasis on all parents and the inclusive nature of the policy in covering all types of pregnancy loss,” adds Allison. “We’ll continue to monitor its impact but it was important to introduce it. It was the right thing to do for our colleagues.”