There is no statutory right to maternity pay if yu miscarriage before 24 weeks.
If you miscarry before 24 weeks’ pregnancy, then there is no right to maternity leave or statutory maternity pay. The rights to maternity leave and statutory maternity pay only apply from 24 weeks, when the loss is classed as a stillbirth rather than miscarriage.
It seems like this distinction is more about whether the loss occurs before or after the baby reaches “viability” at 24 weeks, than about the practicalities around the loss, what the mother has to go through – and what the parents have to then recover from mentally and physically.
Are there any employment rights when you miscarry?
Employees are protected from discrimination because of pregnancy until two weeks after the loss of the pregnancy. However, many who miscarry early won’t have told their employer they were pregnant, meaning that any action their employer takes before knowing they were pregnant can’t have been affected by their pregnancy.
There is no statutory right to time off because of pregnancy loss prior to 24 weeks’ pregnancy. Women will often have to take “ordinary” sickness absence following a miscarriage, or even use annual leave. The type of leave taken may depend on whether they have told – or want to tell – their employer that they’ve had a miscarriage. Some will realise in retrospect that they didn’t take enough time off to heal.
What is a baby loss policy?
If employers introduce a baby loss policy that instils a culture of support and a way to report miscarriage confidentially, that can make a huge difference to staff. Some women don’t disclose miscarriages because by definition it discloses that they are trying for a baby, and there remains a big fear about the potential impact on their career if their employer views this as a lack of commitment to the business – which is frustratingly common. I’ll refrain from comment on the rights and wrongs of this view here.
Employers should consider a ‘Baby Loss Policy’.
George’s law and time off following miscarriage
There are attempts to introduce a statutory right to 3 days’ paid leave, but progress has stalled in Parliament. It’s “only” 3 days’ paid leave, but would dovetail with the right to statutory sick pay that starts to pay after 3 days’ absence. And that’s assuming the employer doesn’t do better than the minimum.
Remember too that partners will often want to take time to grieve and support the woman who’s miscarried. There’s no statutory right to time off for partners, and the minimal ask of 3 days’ paid leave is only for the woman who has miscarried. A baby loss policy should provide for partners as well.
A comment about my personal experiences…
As a woman who went through recurrent miscarriages a decade or so ago, I did various versions of not taking enough time off but pushing through regardless, trying to return to work but then needing more time off, and sometimes getting it right for me and returning healed and stronger. I also had lots of time out for consultant appointments, scans and so on.
My manager at the time was fantastically understanding and supportive. I’m not sure what those who weren’t aware of my situation thought about my comings and goings, but I know I absolutely did not want to tell all and sundry about something so intensely personal. I sometimes wonder what if anything I’d have done differently if I was going through that period now that miscarriage is much more widely spoken about.
The fear about the impact on my career – even though I knew all too well that I was treading water because I didn’t have the strength to really push my career whilst feeling so physically and mentally wrung out – would probably still be there. I think that’s natural for anyone. And that in turn goes to the culture of an organisation: is there a policy that sets out protections? Are managers trained on the policy? Is it lived up to or is it just trendy box-ticking? I’d like to think that if I could be sure that I wouldn’t suffer for putting my head above the parapet, that I would seek the support made available to me.
So, speaking more generally, I think baby loss policies are a fantastic step forward. But this is an area where training on the policy and genuine actual support from HR and managers are imperative. You have to make women and their partners feel totally safe in taking advantage of your policy or it’s just a waste of paper.
How can we help?
Whether you’re an employer, HR professional or employee, if you need help and advice around miscarriage or baby loss policies, do get in touch at email@example.com or on 03300 020 863.