According to Tommy’s, every day in the UK 515 woman suffer known miscarriages. 144 babies are born preterm. 8 babies are stillborn. Everyday.
October 9th – 15th is Baby Loss Awareness Week and October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This is an emotive and brutal subject, but we should still talk about it openly and honestly.
This is possibly one of the hardest experiences a family can endure. As managers or HR professionals do we know what the right words are, do we know what to say? Probably not. But what we do know is that acknowledging our employee’s grief is really important, supporting that grief is really important and always being kind is really important.
We want to provide you with guidance as to how best to support your employee’s, let’s remember this isn’t just mothers, this is partners and families too.
You may not understand how your employee is feeling, if you have not experienced baby loss, how could you. Start by researching baby loss, websites such as Tommy’s, Sands or the Miscarriage Association have useful videos and information offering insight as to the physical and mental pain the parents may be feeling. Understand that the experience of loss will be different for everyone, consider this as you check your work’s policies, you may have EAP programmes or access to wellbeing support which could be beneficial to your employee.
Hopefully, you have a good awareness of what type of communication and contact would be suitable for you to make with your member of staff. One size does not fit all in how you approach this. It could be that a card would be welcomed, you may feel that you have the relationship where you could call. Do what you feel is best using your knowledge of your employee.
Remember, a family’s world has just been turned upside down, listen, support, be approachable, be flexible. Acknowledge their pain.
Communicate to the wider workforce, when appropriate to do so or on the agreement of your employee, their awful news, to ensure there are no awkward questions or silences when your employee returns to work.
If you know it, use the baby’s name, this acknowledges their existence and the special place they hold.
Return To Work
There is no right answer for this, as managers and HR professionals we have a duty to ensure it is the right time for our employee. Be flexible and patient, you could consider phased returns or shorter days.
Other things to consider
Be open and ask your employee what you can do to support what they need.
Don’t assume this is a private matter, some people would rather talk about their loss, check with them.
Understand that some days will be triggers – first day of school, Christmas concerts, Mother’s and Father’s Day, pregnancy announcements by colleagues. Check in on them.
Acknowledge the day in an appropriate way for your employee – maybe a card to say your thinking of them, a bar of chocolate, an early finish, a donation to a charity.
Legally, you should consider the following:
A miscarriage is classified when a baby is born dead before the 24th week of pregnancy. This does not invoke maternity rights, but you should be fully flexible and supportive of your employee and the grief they are dealing with.
A stillbirth is when a baby is born dead after the beginning of the 24th week of pregnancy. Employees can claim statutory maternity and paternity allowance.
We are here to support you and your team, please contact us if you need support and guidance through loss.