Last year, TV presenter Alex Jones, revealed that she was on camera just an hour after discovering she had miscarried. Her story shone a light on the challenges faced by women and their partners when dealing with the loss of an unborn child and, while this would be distressing for anyone, for working men and women it can be particularly challenging. Having to go to work during or shortly after experiencing miscarriage can be particularly upsetting and, as most miscarriages happen before 12 weeks it is likely that Employers are unaware of what their employee is dealing with.
Statistics suggest that there were over 131,000 miscarriages in the UK last year. The likelihood is that over 20,000* of those happened while the individual was at work. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that Men find dealing with miscarriage difficult too, meaning 40,000 people dealt with that loss while working. It should also be noted that miscarriage is not necessarily a short-term event, the actual process of miscarrying a baby can take weeks and 20% of those who have experienced miscarriage are likely to go on to experience lengthy periods of anxiety & depression, 85% of whom experience those mental health symptoms for between 1-3 years.
As an Employer, from a legal perspective those who experience miscarriage may not qualify for maternity leave or pay. If employees need time off work following the loss of their baby, they must ask their employer if they provide compassionate leave or ask to take annual leave or unpaid leave. Lots of countries around the world approach miscarriage differently India, for instance, offers an entitlement of six weeks of paid maternity leave. As an employer, making moves towards this will demonstrate you are a family friendly business who puts your employees mental and physical health first.
How can you support employees coping with miscarriage?
Create an environment of openness
Despite Alex Jones and popular blogger and activist, Mother Pukka talking so openly about miscarriage, it continues to be a taboo and we’re a long way from people feeling they can be open about it. Empowering managers to be as supportive as possible, giving them autonomy to offer a variety of options for support and periods of paid leave will help. Getting senior managers to talk openly about their own mental health issues will make openness and over-coming personal challenges a sign of strength and highlight that employees are not alone in facing these types of challenges.
Offer extended compassionate leave
Everyone, both men and women will deal with miscarriage in their own way. Some will embrace work to take their mind off what has happened and attempt to move on, while others may feel the need to take some time out. Giving them the option to take extended periods of leave and have time to focus on themselves and their recovery is essential. Adjusting your maternity policy to offer 4-6 weeks leave after experiencing miscarriage will be a huge step and, in turn will create the culture of support and empathy that employers should embrace.
Educate managers on how to deal with major personal life events
While Managers could and probably should not become their employees’ counsellor giving them tools to support members of their team who are experiencing difficult life events can make a huge difference. In terms of miscarriage, simply understanding that miscarriage can be a lengthy process and that mental health implications can persist for months, if not years will go a long way to help.
Offer mental health support and publicise its availability
Getting the support you need after experiencing miscarriage is essential. According to the 2014 survey carried out by the We Need to Talk Coalition, out of 2,000 people who tried to access talking therapies, only 15% were offered the full range recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Offering easy access to mental health support will make a huge difference and hopefully shorten the length of time is takes for individuals to feel themselves again.
Mental Health problems at work cost the UK economy £34.9 Billion last year. By adopting some of the policies above and prioritising your employees mental and physical well-being you will not on increase your profitability but also improve your employer brand and become an employer of choice for prospective employees.
Parent Cloud is reinventing how businesses engage with parents at work. Offering on demand remote coaching and support to help parents to thrive. We also have dedicated specialists to help employees deal with the challenges surrounding miscarriage and fertility.
In 2018 there were 657,000 births in the UK. Tommy’s charity suggests that 1 in 5 pregnancies result in miscarriage which suggests that there were 131,400 miscarriages last year. With 71% employment and an average 36 hour working week it would suggest that 20,011 of those miscarriages would have happened while at work and, bearing in mind miscarriages are likely to take much longer than a day, this number is likely to be much higher.