This week marks Baby Loss Awareness Week, between 9-15 October. While other awareness days or weeks are widely discussed in the corporate space, this one appears to be less so. Baby or pregnancy loss is often a hidden subject in the workplace, with many employees perhaps preferring not to disclose their experience beyond a need-to-know basis to their employer and colleagues. Yet, with one in four pregnancies in the UK estimated to end in loss, a significant proportion of the working population is likely to have been affected by this in some way.
By its very nature, baby or pregnancy loss is a sensitive subject. It is understandable, therefore, that while some employers wish to provide support, they recognise that doing so needs to be handled with care. For those that have experienced such loss, even communications on the subject may act as a trigger.
Research published earlier this week by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) highlighted the gap that currently exists in workplace provision of support around baby loss. For example, just a quarter of employees who have experienced pregnancy or baby loss received paid compassionate or other special leave from their employer, despite just under half (46%) stating such leave was or would have been beneficial.
The research also found that just 37% of employers had a formal policy in place to support staff, while just 24% of the senior HR professionals and decision-makers surveyed said their organisation encourages an open and supportive climate to the extent that employees feel they can talk about sensitive subjects such as baby or pregnancy loss. Speaking about it can be a key part of the grieving process for bereaved parents, so creating an environment in which they feel comfortable doing so can be extremely important.
Clearly, there is still some way to go in workplace support becoming the norm. Many organisations, however, have taken steps to introduce support for staff and create a more open culture in which employees can speak about their loss.
Employers including Citizr, SafetyCulture, and Landbay, have launched dedicated miscarriage leave policies this year, while a number have signed the Miscarriage Association’s Workplace Pledge, which sets out guidelines for employers to adhere to. These include encouraging a supportive work environment in which people feel able to disclose and discuss pregnancy and/or loss without fear of being disadvantaged against or discrimination, showing empathy and understanding towards parents who experience loss, and implementing a pregnancy loss policy or guidance, among others.
While it is not the easiest subject to address, providing workplace support to those who experience baby or pregnancy loss can be important to these individuals. National awareness events can be a good way to open the conversation.