Laura Tracey: How employers can support staff with the loss of a child

Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October) is when many who are affected by the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or termination for medical reasons, come together in remembrance and support in both their personal and working lives.

Employees who suffer from a miscarriage before 24 weeks do not legally qualify for any particular statutory leave, although they may take sick leave to recover from the physical effects of pregnancy or baby loss.

Therefore, employers need to consider having a policy or framework that their staff can turn to if they are affected by a pregnancy or baby loss. This may include extending bereavement or compassionate leave to affected employees, which also covers partners and surrogates, and paid leave to attend any medical appointments or investigations relating to the loss.

Employers may also want to offer the option of a phased return to work or ability to work from home, where an employee may find it difficult to return following a pregnancy or baby loss, while also providing details of a named individual, typically someone in HR although it need not be, within the business who is appropriately trained to offer support, who the employee can confidentially confide in about their pregnancy loss.

They could also offer professional counselling, and paid time off to attend it, signpost other forms of support that exist within the business including mental health first aiders and any employee assistance programmes, and highlight other information and peer support groups such as charities like Tommy’s, or organisations like The Miscarriage Association, Child Bereavement UK or Saying Goodbye.

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The training and education of line managers around pregnancy and baby loss also equips them to support employees in a sensitive and compassionate way on their return to work, including recognising and avoiding potential triggers such as new baby announcements. Compassion is key.

Laura Tracey is an employment partner at Freeths