The CIPD has published a new survey report looking at whether and how employers are supporting people experiencing pregnancy or baby loss. The report also examines the value of workplace support for individuals and for the business. Overall, we found that too few employers have support in place for people at what is often a very difficult time.

While these findings are focused on a UK context, the broader principles and implications should be of interest wherever you are based. 

One in five (21%) employees told us they didn’t receive any support at work from their employer. And almost a quarter (24%) said they considered leaving their job because of their experience at work in relation to pregnancy or baby loss. However, of the employees who did receive support in relation to their loss, 60% said it had a positive impact on their mental wellbeing and 55% reported a positive impact on their ability to perform well in their job. 

Sadly, pregnancy and baby loss is more common than many people, and employers, think. It is often a hidden issue in the workplace, perhaps reflecting the taboo in wider society as sensitive issues like this often aren’t talked about. However, we know from our research that workplace support can make a big difference to people at what can be a very difficult time. 

We surveyed 2,023 senior HR professionals and decision makers about the support their organisation provides, as well as 295 employees who had sadly experienced pregnancy or baby loss about any support they received at work. Here we share some of the key findings and how we will be continuing this work over the coming months.

Policy provision and support in UK workplaces

Just over a third of employers (37%) have a formal policy in place relating to pregnancy or baby loss, whether that’s a standalone policy or part of a wider one. Of those who include it in a wider policy, 41% do so within their policy on maternity/paternity/shared parental leave policy. This may not be the ideal place to have this information and could feel insensitive to people who have experienced such a loss. In contrast, a quarter (25%) of employers who include pregnancy or baby loss in a wider policy do so in a wider health and wellbeing policy and 17% include it in their parental bereavement policy. 

Another key area for employers to focus on is ensuring line managers feel capable and confident to have sensitive conversations with people, such as about workplace support for pregnancy and baby loss. They are very likely to be employees’ first point of contact at work so how they respond is crucial.

However, in our survey, just 40% of employees felt their manager showed understanding that it can be a challenging time. 

Our research shows the value of line manager support: for example, 70% of those who didn’t feel supported by their line manager said that support would have been beneficial. Managers need to know how to put workplace support in place effectively, such as flexibility and reasonable adjustments, while being aware of the boundaries of their role, and how to signpost people to workplace and external support where needed. Furthermore, we want to encourage employees to think about how generous they can be in providing paid leave. In our survey of employees, we asked what support was, or would have been, most helpful to them. Around half (46%) of employees we surveyed said that paid compassionate or other special leave (in addition to any statutory entitlement) was or would have been helpful, however, only 25% said they received that from their employer.

New good practice guidance

Our aim through this work is to encourage many more employers to provide effective workplace support for people experiencing pregnancy or baby loss. We have published a case study of Co-op, looking at how they support their staff in this respect. And in November we are publishing practical guidance for HR and employers on how to design and implement their own framework of support, including:

  • Raising awareness across the organisation of the need for pregnancy and baby loss to be recognised as an important workplace wellbeing issue.
  • Creating an open, inclusive and supportive culture.
  • Managing absence and leave with compassion and flexibility.
  • Equipping line managers to support people with empathy and understanding.

The importance of inclusive support 

We encourage employers to base their workplace support on the principles of compassion, empathy and inclusivity. We believe policies and support should be inclusive of anyone experiencing loss, including adoptive parents, foster parents, intended parents and surrogates. And it’s also important that the needs of partners are recognised and they are supported within the workplace. 

Some people may not want to tell their manager or employer about their loss or access workplace support, and that should be respected. However, it’s important employees know support is available if they want it and to ensure people are met with understanding and compassion should they wish to tell someone at work about their experience or ask for support. 

Policy implications

In New Zealand, couples are eligible for 3 days of paid bereavement leave if they experience a miscarriage or still birth.

At the moment in the UK, ‘if a miscarriage happens in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, there’s no entitlement to statutory maternity, paternity or parental bereavement leave’ (Acas). However, Angela Crawley MP has put forward a Private Members’ Bill, which is proposing that three days of paid leave for people who experience a miscarriage or pregnancy loss before 24 weeks (including partners). The Second Reading of Ms Crawley’s Bill will be on 2nd December. 

We support this proposal but we will also continue to encourage employers to go beyond proposed legislation, ensuring their people feel supported at a difficult time. 

About the authors

Jill Miller, Senior Policy Adviser, Diversity and Inclusion

Jill is Senior Policy Adviser for Diversity and Inclusion at the CIPD. Her work focuses on the areas of gender, age and neurodiversity and she has recently led work on race inclusion, managing drug and alcohol misuse at work, and supporting employees through fertility treatment, pregnancy loss and still birth. Earlier in her career, Jill specialised in small business growth through good people management and employee wellbeing.

Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser, Employee Relations

Rachel Suff joined the CIPD as a policy adviser in 2014 to increase the CIPD’s public policy profile and engage with politicians, civil servants, policy-makers and commentators to champion better work and working lives. An important part of her role is to ensure that the views of the profession inform CIPD policy thinking on issues such as health and wellbeing, employee engagement and employment relations. As well as conducting research on UK employment issues, she helps guide the CIPD’s thinking in relation to European developments affecting the world of work. Rachel’s prior roles include working as a researcher for XpertHR and as a senior policy adviser at Acas.

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