The Miscarriage Association has recently published a hub of information and support resources for employees, employers, managers, colleagues and HR staff. After a year spent researching, writing and creating the information, case studies and films, it’s fantastic to see them live.
Ironically, I suffered a missed miscarriage during this time. Needless to say the Miscarriage Association were wonderfully supportive and patient.
In any workplace, a number of women (and partners) will have experienced a pregnancy loss. My research identified difficulties relating to:
- a lack of knowledge of employees’ rights – including those related to leave,
- managers’ lack of knowledge and actual misinformation on the types of loss and the physical and psychological implications,
- failures of managers/employers to ask employees what they needed and what would help,
- a lack of follow up support or awareness of/sensitivity to ongoing needs,
- feeling judged or receiving thoughtless or hurtful comments,
- a pressure to return to work before feeling ready or inflexibility with time off and sometimes disciplinary action taken as a result,
- a lack of acknowledgement from employers or colleagues,
- discrimination relating to promotion or even redundancy after a loss or if it’s known that someone is planning to conceive,
- anxiety about returning to work and
- less support/changes in support offered after experiencing multiple losses (when if anything it’s needed more).
We did also hear more positive stories, showing that the right support at the time and long term can make a real difference. It isn’t just the big actions (offering leave and flexible working) but smaller sensitivities and care too. You can hear more on this podcast of a talk I did for Women at Work’s Work Body Ready event.
Positive experiences seemed to be dependent on the managers and employers involved rather than on consistent practice.
Every situation will be different and we hope to encourage managers and employees to have meaningful conversations about each employee’s needs and to make adjustments as needed. Employers also need to be more aware of the need for long-term support.
Both employers and employees need clear legal information, ideally within a miscarriage policy. This should include information on employees’ rights and employers’ responsibilities. Women and their partners may need support to stand up for their rights at a vulnerable and emotional time.
The new leaflet and online resources have information, support, and training ideas for organisations to use immediately and to refer to when the need arises. It has support for employees experiencing loss right now, and suggestions to help those who want to create a miscarriage policy and provide better support going forwards.
We have been approached by lots of organisations and individuals hoping to make changes in their workplaces. We are starting to see a greater awareness of the need for support. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.