Going back to work after a miscarriage
Going back to work after a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy might feel daunting. You may not be sure how you’ll cope, how people will respond or what to say to colleagues about what happened.
If you don’t feel ready to go back yet, you might want to get a further ‘fit note’ from your doctor. There is no limit to the amount of leave you can take after a miscarriage*, as long as it is certified as pregnancy-related. Have a look at our information on your rights.
Lots of women feel pressure to return to work – either from their employers or because they can’t afford to stay off any longer. Partners may only have been offered a few days of compassionate leave. Others feel ready to go back earlier than they (or others) thought they would.
Whatever your situation, this page has more information to help you return to working life.
I’m returning to work next week and I am really nervous about what my colleagues and the team I manage are going to say and think.
*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.
Preparing to return to work after a miscarriage
Your workplace absence (or miscarriage) policy should have more information about what your manager should do to help with your return to work. This may include:
- organising a phased return,
- having a meeting where you talk about what they can do to support you, and
- emailing colleagues to explain why you have been off and sharing our information for colleagues.
You can ask for this support even if it isn’t in official policy. Your manager, a more senior manager or an HR department should be able to help. You may have to speak to someone at Occupational Health.
It might help to decide beforehand what you are going to say or how much you are going to share. You may have decided not to tell anyone at work, or only a few people. In this case, you may have to think about what to say when people ask how you are doing or why you were off.
Some people at work might make comments that are insensitive or hurtful. Often people mean well but simply don’t understand. You might find it helpful to look at our information on other people’s reactions.
I did have a few well-meaning but guaranteed to make your blood boil comments to contend with too (‘at least’ remarks).
Asking for more support
It might feel as if everyone expects you to be ‘back to normal’ once you are back at work. But it’s ok to ask for extra support when you need it.
Your manager, someone in HR, Occupational Health or an Employee Assistance Programme may be able to help.
Physically I was ok but not mentally or emotionally.
Pregnancy announcements at work, pregnant colleagues or those with newborn babies may be hard to cope with, even quite a long time after your loss. Talk to your manager about adjustments to make things easier. Here are some examples.
- Having some space or time out of the situation when needed.
- Working from home – just to have a break from pregnancy/baby talk or on specific days you know you might find difficult.
- Asking for adjustments to help you avoid coming into contact with newborn babies or pregnant people at vulnerable times for you.
- Asking your manager to warn you if someone is about to send out a pregnancy announcement.
- Letting your manager know you may be more vulnerable after pregnancy or newborn baby announcements.
Allowances were made to avoid difficult situations – for example working one on one with pregnant customers of similar gestation.
Managing another pregnancy
Pregnancy after a previous loss can be a very anxious time. It might help to have a look at our information on pregnancy after miscarriage.
Coping with a lack of support
If you have had a bad experience at work, you may find it hard to give the same level of support and commitment. You may feel you need to offer feedback to senior managers or even make an official complaint about how you were treated.
Some people find that making positive changes within their organisation can help them make peace with their experience. For example, campaigning for the introduction of a miscarriage policy or setting up a support group. Not everyone wants to (or feels able to) do this – and that’s ok too.
I lost my love for the job, I lost trust in the management team.
Lots of people don’t want to tell their employers about their miscarriage. They are worried about being treated differently when trying for a baby.
Sadly, this is sometimes the case. Some people we spoke to felt they were not given work or were passed over for promotion as a result of opening up about their miscarriage and seeking the support they deserve.
This is unlawful. No one should be discriminated against for trying for a baby, pregnancy, pregnancy loss or maternity leave. Keep a record of what happens and when, with saved emails and notes of conversations.
Not everyone feels able to fight discrimination. You may be on a temporary contract or feel your job isn’t secure enough. Or you may just be physically and emotionally exhausted. But Maternity Action, Pregnant then Screwed and ACAS can all provide advice if you would like to take things further.
I felt my boss was trying to push me out of my job because he knew I was trying to have a baby. I eventually left, after having suffered a second miscarriage.
Making changes for the future
You may feel as if you would like to make some changes to how your workplace supports women and their partners after miscarriage. After two miscarriages, Victoria wrote some guidance for her department. It may help to read her story. You may also want to have a look at our information on creating a miscarriage policy and running training and awareness events.
You may also be interested in reading Helen’s experience of getting guidance signed off at the Government Legal Department.
When, some weeks later, the haze of despair and grief started to lift a little, a thought struck me: what if the managers who had supported me through two of the most difficult times of my life, and who had played such a huge part in me returning to work as a productive and respected member of staff, were one-offs? With the support of others in the Department, I wrote some guidance which offers advice to people who want to support team members who are experiencing the loss of a baby.