Employees: information and support
Most workplaces will have a maternity policy but many don’t (yet) have policies or guidance in place to help you and your manager cope with miscarriage*, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy.
You may be wondering if (and how) you should tell your workplace about what is happening. You may be unsure about your rights to time off and support. You may not want to tell your employer at all. Lots of women still feel worried that they will face discrimination if they are known to be trying for a baby. You may need a long time off work to recover. Or you might want to return quite quickly. You may find the routine and focus helpful or worry about disrupting ongoing work. Different things are right for different people.
It might be that you would prefer to have a longer time away but feel unable to tell people or to afford additional time off. Some people find it’s only when they go back to work they realise they need more time.
This section has information to help you understand your rights and the support your employer should offer you. Some of these are legal rights – your workplace has to give you these or they risk breaking the law. Others will depend on policies in your organisation.
We also have more information on going back to work, fighting discrimination and making changes for the future here.
We also have information for employers that you may find helpful to share with them.
Faye talks about her experience and the support she would have liked from her employer.
I had a good manager who had been through it herself, so was very supportive and understanding. I was able to take time off which was classed as pregnancy-related, meaning it did not affect my sick leave.
*We often use the term ‘miscarriage’ to include miscarriage, ectopic and molar pregnancy. If your baby is stillborn after 24 weeks gestation, your rights are very different. Maternity Action has more information about later loss. All our information covers UK law and practices only.
Your rights at work after a miscarriage
Time off after a miscarriage
If you have experienced the physical loss and need sick leave after a miscarriage (for physical or mental health reasons), it must be recorded as pregnancy-related sickness. This means that it cannot be used against you in any way (for example as a reason to discipline you, refuse promotion or make you redundant).
You should be able to self-certify that the leave is pregnancy-related for the first seven days. After this, you will need a GP or health professional to give you a fit note to certify it is pregnancy-related. If you have been treated in hospital you may be able to get this note from someone there. Otherwise, it might be a good idea to make an appointment with your GP (make an emergency appointment if needs be) or other health professional. You can read more about who can sign a ‘fit note’ here.
Most GPs should be able to help, even if your pregnancy is not yet in your medical notes. Take anything that can help explain the situation – for example, any period tracker or record you have of your cycle. It’s possible they may wish to examine you.
If you go back to work and then realise you need further time off, you should ask your GP or another health professional to continue to certify it as pregnancy-related. Sadly, you may find some are reluctant to do this. You could try and see another doctor or professional or ask for a second opinion.
Some employers think that you can only take two weeks of pregnancy-related sickness following a miscarriage. This is not the case. It is up to your GP or other health professionals to advise on time off work following a miscarriage and whether your sickness is related to your pregnancy or miscarriage. Your GP or other health professional can certify your sick leave as pregnancy or miscarriage-related for as long as necessary and, if this is stated in your sick note, the entire period should be classed as pregnancy/miscarriage-related.
Under equality laws, you are protected against pregnancy discrimination for a protected period of two weeks from the end of your pregnancy if you are dismissed or treated unfairly because of your pregnancy, miscarriage or related sick leave.
After the two week protected period you may have a claim for unfair dismissal (if you have two years’ service) or automatic unfair dismissal if you are dismissed or made redundant. You may have claims for detrimental treatment, direct and/or indirect sex discrimination (rather than pregnancy discrimination), if you are disciplined or treated unfairly because of your pregnancy, miscarriage or related sick leave. This protection is not limited to a specific period and applies to treatment related to pregnancy or miscarriage-related sickness regardless of how long you are off sick. You will need to consider what evidence you have to show that the unfair treatment or dismissal was related to your miscarriage or subsequent sick leave but bear in mind this may be more difficult if you have a lengthy period of sickness absence.
You can get further specialist legal or employment advice from Maternity Action. You can call 0808 802 0057 if you live or work in London. If you live in Manchester or East Cheshire, you can use their new service by clicking here or by calling 0808 801 0488. If you live in Cheshire or Merseyside, you can access their services here or by calling 0808 802 0062. If you are outside these areas, you can call them on 0808 802 0029. You can also get free legal advice by email from Maternity Action.
If you feel unable to tell your employer about your miscarriage, or you choose not to, any leave you take will be recorded as ordinary sick leave and your organisation’s standard sickness policy will apply. Your absence won’t be protected as pregnancy-related.
If you are off for longer than seven calendar days, you will need a fit note. You could ask your doctor or health professional not to share detailed information with your employer on this form. This will be at his/her discretion, though most are likely to be sympathetic.
If you feel unable to speak to your manager, you could consider speaking directly to the HR department, if your company has one, though we appreciate this isn’t without its difficulties.
If you are the partner of someone who has experienced a physical loss then you are not entitled to pregnancy-related leave or sickness absence. Some workplaces will have provision for partners in a miscarriage policy or may offer compassionate leave (paid or unpaid leave for emergency situations). Others may insist you take unpaid leave or use your holiday if you want to take time off. If you are unhappy with your treatment, ACAS has more information on how to raise a problem at work.
If you are self-employed, you may have the flexibility to choose when and how you go back to work. But most people who are self-employed will have contracts and deadlines. How much time you take off may depend on the people you’re working for, your finances and your own worries about getting future work. It’s worth bearing in mind that the people you work for may be more understanding than you think.
The company were understanding, but I still didn’t want to let them down. I did an urgent piece of work the day before my surgery but then had a week off. It did mean my invoices were lower that month and I’m in debt on my credit card as a result.
Sick pay after a miscarriage
Unfortunately, you are only entitled to the sick pay specified in your contract. This may mean you are given time off on full pay, or you may only receive statutory sick pay (SSP).
If you are on a zero-hours contract you should still get sick pay if you have earned enough over the previous months. Temporary and agency staff may still be eligible. Even if your employer says you are self-employed, you may still be entitled to sick pay. The rules are complicated but Citizens Advice can help you understand what you are entitled to.
Low or no sick pay may mean you are forced to return to work before you feel completely ready. Have a look at our information on going back to work after a miscarriage.
If you are not eligible for sick pay, or you are self-employed, there’s more information about other benefits you may be entitled to on Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. You may find it easier to make an appointment to talk to an advisor face to face.
There is more information about rights to time off and pay on Maternity Action.
A phased return to work
A phased return is where you return to work for reduced hours or different duties at first. Some people find this helps them get back into work, while others prefer to go back to normal immediately.
You don’t have an automatic right to a phased return. Your workplace should have an absence policy that gives more information about how your return to work should be managed. If they don’t have a policy, they should be as consistent as possible. If other people have been offered a phased return, you should be too. A doctor may recommend a phased return in your fit note.
If you don’t have an official phased return, but you feel you need more time, you could consider using some annual leave to take some half or full days off in the weeks after you go back.
I was allowed to return to work at my own pace, they were fully supportive of me working reduced hours from home initially and then returning on half days to the office, slowly increasing to full time.
Flexible working/reasonable adjustments after a miscarriage
Some people find flexibility or adjustments to their job can help them return to work more quickly. In this example of good practice, Cerian talks about the adjustments that helped her.
You are entitled by law to reasonable adjustments to help you do your job if you have a disability – this includes a mental health problem. You are not legally entitled to reasonable adjustments for other reasons (including miscarriage). Your organisation may have a policy that outlines anything they can offer in terms of flexible working and adjustments.
It might be helpful to make a list of anything that might be difficult, and what adjustments could help. You could discuss this with your manager at a return to work meeting or by email beforehand.
It’s up to you whether you choose to tell your colleagues and other people in your workplace. Some people find the support of colleagues helpful, while others prefer not to share.
You have a right to keep your miscarriage private if you choose. Your manager should ask you what, if anything, you would like other people at work to know.
I only told my line manager and two friends who work in other teams. I did not want everyone to know because I wanted there to be some normality in my life and I thought the workplace would provide a separate focus.
Unhappy with your treatment?