Pregnancy loss and the workplace – Co-op
With over 63,000 staff across its food, funeral, legal and insurance services.
What prompted your organisation to look at a pregnancy loss policy?
In the spring of 2021, we did some research with our colleagues about grief in the workplace to understand more about what further support we could offer colleagues experiencing bereavement. Our research showed us that pregnancy loss support was an important topic for our colleagues and that we needed to do more to make sure it was seen as bereavement and not as a medical situation.
We had a gap in our provision for those who experience pregnancy loss and their partners particularly for losses under 24 weeks where there is currently no legal requirement for employers to support or pay colleagues. The more we investigated the issue the more we realised that providing more support for our colleagues experiencing pregnancy loss was the right thing to do and we needed to act quickly.
How did you go about this?
Once we had carried out our research, we took our ideas for improvement to our senior People team for discussion and worked with our colleague networks, legal team, trade unions and People policy manager to get things moving to launch our approach. We found that once we started to have the conversations, our colleagues were supportive of the proposal. They started to tell us about their own experiences, which helped us to realise that we were definitely doing the right thing.
And what was the end result?
We have a standalone pregnancy loss policy along with a guide for managers supporting colleagues. Our policy includes:-
- Flexible paid leave, tailored to best provide support for individual circumstances
- Paid leave for partners to support those affected by the experience of pregnancy loss
- The policy also covers colleagues who are intended parents and experience pregnancy loss with using a surrogate, including if pregnancy loss happens to the surrogate
- Time off for medical appointments, access to support with bereavement and grief
- Extending support with emergency leave for wider family members, such as grandparents, to help them support loved ones experiencing a pregnancy loss
- Access to GP support available to colleagues and their families 24 hours a day through Co-op’s Smart Health virtual service, providing psychologist-led mental health support, complex case support, second medical opinions and proactive health guidance
Our policy is publicly available at Co-op Pregnancy Loss Policy.
Did you receive any assistance from the Miscarriage Association?
Yes, we approached the Miscarriage Association to help us build our policy as we wanted to make sure that we got our language and guidance for managers right. We knew that with their focus and expertise they would help us develop a better and more sensitive and compassionate policy and they did.
Shirine Khoury-Haq, Co-op Chief Financial Officer and CEO of Life Services, said: “Losing a baby at any stage in a pregnancy is a devastating experience.
“The decision to discuss that with your employer is an incredibly difficult and personal one. Having lost our eldest daughter and having suffered several miscarriages myself and with our surrogate I understand just how difficult it is to navigate your personal and professional life during such heartbreak.
“By creating a supportive environment companies can go a long way in easing the stress that people in this situation often feel. I am very proud that the Co-op is recognising and supporting our colleagues at a time when they need it most.”
“We’re pleased to sign the Miscarriage Association’s Pregnancy Loss Pledge in the hope that it continues to help break the taboo of pregnancy loss in more workplaces, whilst recognising and supporting colleagues at a time when they need it most.”
Join the co-op in taking the M.A.’s Pregnancy Loss Pledge.