What are an employer’s responsibilities regarding miscarriage?

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Miscarriage at work

1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage before 12 weeks.

Sadly, one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage before 12 weeks’ pregnancy. Miscarriage will often lead to women taking time off work to deal with the physical and emotional health impacts, and employees do have discrimination rights around miscarriage, no matter how long they’ve been employed. Whilst baby loss policies are becoming more common, employers often don’t know how to deal appropriately with miscarriage.

Do I have to tell my employer I had a miscarriage?

You don’t have to tell your employer you had a miscarriage.  If you want to take time off sick, and give some other reason for it, then you would be on ordinary sick leave and the usual sickness rules would apply.  If you tell your employer that you are off sick because you had a miscarriage, then you’re making them aware of your loss and you’ll gain the protections afforded to pregnant women and women who have recently lost their baby.

So, although there’s no obligation to tell your employer why you’re off, it can be a good idea to put them in the picture.  If your employer treats you unfairly in some way, and doesn’t know about your miscarriage, then the unfair treatment won’t be because of your miscarriage. However, if you’re treated unfairly – for instance, selected for redundancy soon afterwards – and your employer knew you were off sick because you’d had a miscarriage, then it’s possible that their decision was related to your miscarriage and could be discriminatory.

It can feel like a big decision whether to tell your employer though – many women fear that if their employer knows that they’re trying for a baby, it will affect their career prospects. Sadly – and frustratingly – this will be true for some employers. But, if you do tell them you’ve had a miscarriage, then you’re doing all you can to protect your position in case something does happen later on.

What to do if your employee has a miscarriage?

It’s important to refer to your policies and procedures that will usually be included in a staff handbook. The sickness absence policy may be relevant if the organisation doesn’t have a specific baby loss policy. So, look into the policies and procedures that apply, draw the employee’s attention to them, stay in touch but don’t put pressure on the employee to return, or to make any decisions or tell you what they want to do. It also goes without saying that you should acknowledge their loss and express your sympathy, be there if the employee does want to talk.

Broadly speaking, you should consider what’s best for the individual.  This will depend on their particular situation and needs. The woman and her partner will both be impacted by the loss, so remember that your employee may be the partner of a woman who has suffered a miscarriage. Baby loss policies should include partners as well as the woman who’s lost a baby, as well as prospective adoptive and surrogate parents, all of whom could be affected.

Woman being quiet

You do not have to tell your employer you have miscarried.

Is miscarriage a bereavement?

Different people respond to miscarriage in different ways. If you’ve had recurrent miscarriages, then each one might affect you differently. In the same way, some people will regard miscarriage as a bereavement whilst others won’t.

It’s important to remember that each person, and each loss is different and there are no rights and wrongs.  If your employer has a baby loss policy, it should take account of this, whilst allowing a period of leave to those who want to take it.

It’s also important to remember that partners will also be affected by miscarriage, and may regard it as a bereavement too. They may want to take time off to support their partner, as well as needing time off themselves.

How long can you stay off work after a miscarriage?

Your GP or other medical practitioner will advise you on whether you are fit to return to work, based on your physical and mental health condition. Women who have suffered a miscarriage prior to 24 weeks’ pregnancy are protected from discrimination for two weeks after the loss. Those who have lost a baby after 24 weeks’ pregnancy will be entitled to full maternity leave and pay, so are under a significantly different regime.

The two week protection from discrimination after a miscarriage doesn’t mean you can only take two weeks off work.  Again, it’s a medial question, but you should be able to take as long as you need based on your medical condition. If your employer was aware that you were pregnant, and/or you’ve told them that you’ve had a miscarriage, then your sick leave should be recorded as pregnancy related and shouldn’t count for things like redundancy selection, promotion, bonuses or anything that uses your absence record to calculate entitlement or scores.

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