Baby Loss Awareness Week is held every year in the UK from 9 – 15 October and is a time for people to come together to commemorate the lives of babies lost in pregnancy or at or soon after birth.
Regardless of the stage of the pregnancy that loss occurs, it is a deeply personal and distressing event for those involved. Unfortunately, many employees still feel unable to discuss their experiences in the workplace and actively hide this from their employer, leaving them feeling isolated and anxious while also having to cope with their grief.
In circumstances where a baby is lost after the 24th week of pregnancy, all the legal consequences of childbirth apply, so the mother will be entitled to maternity leave and statutory maternity pay will also be available. Equally, partners may also be eligible for paternity leave. Employees may also be entitled to two weeks of statutory parental bereavement leave and pay, therefore providing employees with a legal right to take time away from the workplace to grieve.
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Where an employee suffers a miscarriage in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, known as a miscarriage or neonatal loss however, these legal rights do not apply.
Increasingly, employers are looking at ways in which they can support employees who suffer a baby loss beyond the limited protections offered by law. This might include coming together during Baby Loss Awareness Week and encouraging employees to talk about their experiences to help reduce the stigma around baby loss and know that they are not alone. Employers may also ask experts to deliver webinars or events, which can also help to break the silence around baby loss.
Employers should consider having a policy or guidance where pregnancy and baby loss is explicitly referenced, so employees feel empowered to ask for support. The policy could include details of any enhanced leave and pay or paid counselling, which the employer might consider offering. Colleagues and managers should also be upskilled so that they have the confidence and ability to navigate difficult conversations around baby loss.
Recognising that a baby loss is no less painful than any other bereavement, and showing kindness and warmth to those affected, will go a long way.
Laura Tracey is an employment partner and Rubina Kakuji is a trainee solicitor at Freeths