The Duchess of Sussex has recently revealed that she sadly suffered a miscarriage. Writing on the topic, she said that “Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few.” Medical website Mayo Clinic advises that around 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, but “the actual number is likely higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant”.
If you are an employer, it may sadly therefore become necessary at some point to support an employee who has had a miscarriage. The Miscarriage Association provides guidelines for managers, and set out some general dos and don’ts when supporting an employee:
- Listen, giving them time to talk without interrupting;
- Show empathy and express that you are sorry for their loss;
- Ask open questions.
- Try to minimise what has happened with well-meaning positive statements like “you can always try for another” or “you weren’t showing yet”;
- Take over the conversation with a story about your experiences or somebody you know;
- Make assumptions about what they have been through or how it will impact on their work.
The Miscarriage Association provide examples of questions is may be helpful for employers to ask to understand what support the employee may need here.
A miscarriage can have physical impacts afterwards, as well as emotional ones. This may include symptoms relating to blood loss, and medication side-effects, amongst others. Both emotional and physical impacts should be taken into account in establishing if an employee feels well enough to return to work, and if any measures such as a phased return are appropriate to support them to come back.
Prior to the miscarriage, the employee may have shared with their colleagues the news of their pregnancy. Some employees may wish to tell their colleagues about the miscarriage themselves, but others will not. The Miscarriage Association recommends that managers ask questions to establish what the employee would prefer, such as “Would you like me to tell/email colleagues about your return? Would you like to draft an email yourself or check what I write?”.
It should not be forgotten that the partner of somebody who has had a miscarriage will also be impacted, and may well need to look after their partner, and so it may also be appropriate to explore what support they may need.
Employers should also note that the loss of a pregnancy after the 24th week, is considered a stillbirth rather than a miscarriage. New legislation that came into effect in April 2020, officially termed the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations but known as Jack’s Law, provides parents who suffer stillbirth or the loss of a child will be entitled to two weeks’ statutory parental bereavement leave (SPBL), while those with six months’ service will also be entitled to statutory pay (SPBP).
Employers may find it beneficial to have a policy in place, to provide clear guidelines for managers and employees in case required. For further information on supporting an employee, or help with drafting a policy, please contact a member of the ViewHR Team for an initial discussion.