A miscarriage policy
A policy (or guidance note) can formalise existing practice and ensure there is consistency when staff members change. It can help make miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and molar pregnancy less taboo and ensure people feel more able to ask for support.
Do we need a miscarriage* policy?
Managers and employees have told us they feel more comfortable when their rights and responsibilities are clear.
Katie Lee explains why Lucky Generals (an advertising agency) has a miscarriage policy.
The policy could be part of a larger document on pregnancy loss including miscarriage, ectopic and molar pregnancy, and also termination for medical reasons and stillbirth. Be aware that the legal situation for a loss before and after 24 weeks is quite different. Maternity Action has more information.
Not everyone will want to talk about their experiences or feel that they need help. What we want people to know is that if and when they are ready for it there is always help and support available for all staff.
* We often use the term ‘miscarriage’ to include miscarriage, ectopic and molar pregnancy.
What should a miscarriage policy contain?
A topline or footnote that the document contains topics and issues that some readers may find difficult or upsetting.
The purpose of the document and why it’s important. You may want to explain that it provides information on relevant policies and how to offer support. Include more information on the types of loss included in the policy (or links to further information).
Information on how managers can offer practical and emotional support during and after a loss. Our information for managers may help.
Managers’ responsibilities when it comes to practical support.
You may also want to link to other relevant policies – for example, your sickness absence and maternity policy. A mental health or wellbeing policy may also be relevant.
- Leave and recording absence (please note this is very different for losses before and after 24 weeks). You may want to include your organisation’s legal responsibilities but also any additional support your organisation will offer (for example, they may be prepared to offer paid leave for a longer period rather than expecting employees to rely on SSP).
- Confidentiality and talking about a loss within the team/wider organisation.
- Returning to work – how to support an employee returning to work and what reasonable adjustments may be appropriate at this point and in the longer term.
- Paid leave for medical appointments – and any additional support your organisation can offer when it comes to follow-up medical appointments or fertility treatment.
Links to other support your workplace can provide for both employees and managers – for example, Occupational Health, Wellness Action Plans or an Employer Assistance Programme (EAP).
Should we suggest an amount of time it is appropriate to have off?
Women have told us that they felt unsure about how much time it is appropriate to have off work. Some feel they ‘should’ be returning to work before they are ready.
Some organisations have created policies that specify a time with a suggestion/requirement to discuss with your manager if further time off is needed.
While this takes the pressure off for that initial period, it doesn’t allow for the fact that everyone has different needs and some people may need a lot more, and others much less.
There may also be a risk that employees are expected to be ‘back to normal’ after this period when in fact they may need further support and/or may still be experiencing difficult physical symptoms such as bleeding or pain.
Wellness Action Plans
Wellness Action Plans were created to help organisations support and manage employees’ wellbeing. They are based on Wellness Recovery Action Plans (an evidence-based tool to support mental health) and may provide a helpful structure for managers and employees discussing support needs.
How can I encourage senior management to support the creation of a miscarriage policy?
These are some things people have found helpful.
Talk to your manager, HR or others in your team/organisation who might be interested.
Set up a working group.
Getting buy-in/ support from a senior manager will make it easier
Show them examples of other organisations that have done the same thing. We have filmed case studies of people who set up policies or guidance here.
Provide examples of policies themselves or suggestions as to how the information could fit into an existing policy.
Larger organisations may have networks or groups you could approach – for example, a mental health working group, a fertility support group or a women’s network.
Consult with staff – but be aware that not all staff may wish to be involved or even reminded of a loss.
You might also find it helpful to have a look at our case studies (below) from people and organisations that have successfully established a policy.