Human Resources (HR): information and support

An estimated one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. A smaller but significant number will be ectopic or molar pregnancies.  Some people will experience multiple losses. Most workforces will have employees who have been affected by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy.

Women in an office meetingWomen and their partners don’t always feel able to talk about it. This means that it’s often ignored in management literature and training.

Miscarriage* affects women and their partners in different ways. For many people it’s the loss of a baby, however early it happens. Thoughtful support and management can make a real difference to how people cope – and can enhance an employee’s motivation and commitment[1]. A lack of support can mean reduced productivity, lower standards of work, increased absence and even resignation. Failure to offer the correct support can put your organisation at risk of legal action.

You may be called upon to support employees who have experienced miscarriage. Their managers may need support too, especially if they have also suffered a loss in the past. They may need information about their responsibilities. It can help if you have a policy in place already.

We have information to help you:

* We often use the term ‘miscarriage’ to include miscarriage, ectopic and molar pregnancy. If a baby is stillborn after 24 weeks gestation, the law and employees’ rights are very different. Maternity Action has more information. All our information is based on UK law and practices only.

 

My boss and the head of HR were amazing but I don’t think the firm has a policy for this situation so I had to be signed off for ill-health instead. It would be better for the company to have a clear policy so I knew my rights and wasn’t dependent on a good boss.

Providing HR support for employees and their managers after a miscarriage

We have information about miscarriage, how it may affect women and their partners, talking about miscarriage in the workplace and employers’ responsibilities. We’d recommend taking a look.

Here are some additional things to bear in mind.

Managers and employees have told us they feel more comfortable when everyone’s rights and responsibilities were clear. A miscarriage policy or guidance note can help.

Managers should feel supported in turn by their own managers and HR. Getting senior management on board can help make things easier for everyone.

Managers who have also experienced a loss often feel more confident in offering support. But everyone’s experience is different. Make sure that the manager in question isn’t making assumptions about what the woman or her partner needs.

It’s important to be clear on employees’ rights when it comes to absence after a miscarriage. Have a look at our information on time off and rights to leave.

A manager who has experienced a loss may find it hard to manage or support an employee who is pregnant, particularly if the gestation is similar. Talk to them, or encourage them to talk to their own manager, about any adjustments or support they need.

A culture of trust

Sadly there are still many organisations where women do not feel safe discussing their plans to try to have a baby. A miscarriage policy is a good start but it’s unlikely to be enough.

Your organisation needs to create a culture of trust and make it clear through action and policy that women planning a pregnancy will not face discrimination.   Until this is done, it is unlikely that all women who suffer miscarriage will feel able to seek the support they need.

 

[1] B Hayward, B Fong, A Thornton, BMRB Social Research. The third work-life balance employer survey: main findings, Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, December 2007