How to support employees through pregnancy and baby loss, and why it matters

How to support employees through pregnancy and baby loss blog

1 in 4 employees in the UK lose a baby during pregnancy or birth.

Despite impacting so many of us on such a deep level, the existing stigma can make it difficult for people to access the support they need, especially at work.

At Tommy’s we hear positive and negative stories from employees about the type of support they received at work during their pregnancy or loss, and how it impacted their experience.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a supportive and understanding workplace when it matters most often results in long-lasting trust and loyalty. On the other hand, when this support is lacking employees become disengaged, their wellbeing is impacted, and they are likely to leave.

Did you know:

  • 60% of professional women leave their organisation within a year of returning from maternity leave. The most common reason for this is lack of support and understanding*
  • On average it costs £30,000 to replace an employee.**

“If a company like mine can get it so wrong, I would guess that most other companies are in a similar boat. My experience has me questioning why I continue to work for them, and I’m at high risk of leaving. To be honest, it is very disappointing, especially as they are known for caring about their employee’s wellbeing.”

Mother of a stillborn baby at a very large international company. She has since left the company.

Starting or growing a family is one of the most common major life events and impacts a significant part of a workforce, so why is it that although pregnancy loss is so common, support from work often isn’t good enough?

  • Pregnancy and baby loss is still not talked about openly in society which means the physical and emotional impact of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth is often deeply misunderstood.

    Though more parents are bravely sharing their stories, there is still a long way to go when it comes to creating an open workplace culture around complex pregnancy journeys.

  • There is currently no statutory support for employees who lose a baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy. This contributes to the existing misconception that miscarriage is ‘just one of those things’ and undermines the devastating experience it can be.
  • Without this legislation, paid time off for miscarriage is down to employer discretion, leaving thousands of employees forced to continue working through their loss without the option to take time off to heal and grieve.
  • Prejudice still surrounds pregnancy and parenting in the workplace We hear stories about women not wanting to share that they’ve had a miscarriage for fear of revealing they want to start a family and what that might mean for upcoming promotions. Or returning from maternity leave to find they are treated differently and perceived to be less committed to their job since becoming a parent.

    This is huge to unravel, but ultimately points back to the need for better awareness and understanding across all business functions.

Recently we have seen an increase in businesses prioritising pregnancy and parenting as part of their wellbeing or EDI strategies, so things are starting to change.

But we know it can be difficult to know where to start, know what’s going to make the biggest difference, and know how to maximise the impact of any progress made. How to support employees through pregnancy and baby loss blog

Our top 5 recommendations for businesses looking to improve support for all pregnancy journeys.

  1. Train your people managers

    People will always remember how they were made to feel. The communication and support from line managers is one of the defining factors in how well supported your employee feels by you as an employer.

    Tommy’s Pregnancy and Parenting at Work e-training programme was created to give line managers the skills, knowledge and confidence to navigate sensitive conversations around pregnancy and baby loss. Find out more here.

  2. Have an explicit policy

    Naming pregnancy loss in your policies removes the burden from the employee to navigate leave at one of the most traumatising times in their life. Tommy’s can support with the language and inclusivity of your policy.

  3. Be flexible

    Grief is not one-size-fits-all. There are many factors that will affect your employee’s mental and physical recovery and their needs may change. Create a clear return to work plan that allows for flexibility.

  4. Talk about their loss

    Do: Ask if/how they would like their news to be shared. Use their baby’s name. Ask how they are.
    Don’t: Avoid your colleague or the topic of their loss. Try and “fix” things. Ask them to make lots of decisions.

  5. Break the silence

    Pregnancy and baby loss is still a taboo subject for many, leaving parents isolated in their grief. By providing support and normalising conversations around pregnancy and baby loss, together we can make sure every parent gets the support they need.

    Our expert Midwives provide talks for organisations. Contact pregnancyatwork@tommys.org to find out more.

Why does this matter?

Putting your employees first and supporting them through major life moments is the right thing to do. We all deserve compassion, empathy and understanding from our workplace.

But there are wider business benefits too. When employees feel supported and seen, productivity increases, retention improves, new and diverse talent is drawn towards your business because of your positive reputation for creating an inclusive culture. The benefits of improving support are both instantaneous and long-term and there is so much potential for businesses to create impactful, sustainable change.

Free government-funded training for eligible businesses in Birmingham and Manchester

Tommy’s is expanding their award-winning Pregnancy and Parenting at Work programme to the SME market. Businesses in Birmingham and Manchester with less than 250 employees can access training and support today for free by signing up here.

Contact a member of the team on sme@tommys.org to get your discount code.

About Tommy’s

Tommy’s is the largest pregnancy research charity in the UK. Tommy’s exists to stop the heartbreak and devastation of baby loss by making pregnancy and birth safe – for everyone. 

Bringing together a network of expert researchers, healthcare professionals and passionate supporters, Tommy’s is a community dedicated to saving babies’ lives. Tommy’s researchers are discovering the causes of pregnancy complications and providing expert information and care to support women and birthing people, and their partners, at every stage of their pregnancy journeys. Tommy’s runs a world-leading stillbirth research centre in Manchester.

* Workingmums annual survey, 2016: sample size 2,254, 98% female

** “The Cost of Brain Dump” by Oxford Economics, commissioned by Unum, 2014

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