Did you know…
- An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.
- There are 250,000 pregnancy losses each year in the UK.
Understandably, baby loss can be an extremely difficult time for people to go through and it affects a significant number of people in the work place. Unfortunately, many of these people suffer in silence due to the topic being seen as ‘taboo’ and colleagues and Managers not really knowing what to say, or how to address it. Many will just ignore it, which can actually make the situation worse.
Baby loss awareness week is a great opportunity to break this taboo and raise awareness of a really important topic.
At a time of grief, employer support is invaluable, particularly from the individuals’ line manager. In fact, a recent CIPD survey showed that the second most helpful form of support for someone who had experienced baby loss, was from their Line Manager. A Manager who genuinely listens, cares and demonstrates empathy and understanding can make such a huge difference to someone going through baby loss. Strong Management support can have a positive impact on the individual’s wellbeing, their ability to perform in their role, their commitment to the employer and their intention to continue working there.
However, this same study by the CIPD has found that:
- Only 1 in 3 employers have a policy to manage and support staff through baby loss.
- Only 45% of people who experienced baby loss felt supported by their employer.
- 1 in 4 people who experienced baby loss considered leaving their job.
Baby loss awareness week is therefore also a fantastic opportunity to review your current policies and procedures and what your company does, in practice, when one of your valued team members goes through the traumatic experience of losing their baby.
Compassionate support, such as managing absence and leave flexibly and having empathetic and understanding line managers, can have a positive impact on employee mental health and wellbeing. It can also provide return to the business, in terms of staff loyalty and retention.
Employer support can come in many different forms and some examples include:
- Creating an open, inclusive and supportive culture, where individuals impacted feel empowered to speak about their experience and how it has made them feel.
- Creating supporting policies and leave arrangements, ensuring these are well-communicated and easily-accessible and that Managers are trained on how to apply them to each individual situation. It is also advised to ensure they are contained and kept in an appropriate place i.e. not within the ‘maternity policy’ as this is highly insensitive – the individual does not want a reminder of what could have been when searching for their rights if they have just lost their baby.
- Considering the partner of someone who has experienced baby loss – they will be struggling too and carrying a lot of weight on their shoulders. They may feel that they must keep their feelings contained, as they didn’t go through the physical experience, but they will be suffering mentally and should not be forgotten. In fact, 1 in 14 partners experience PTSD in the month after losing their baby. Make time to grab a coffee with them and ask an open-ended question such as ‘how are you?’ Or offer them some flexibility/paid leave, where possible.
- Being mindful and sensitive of occasions which could trigger sad thoughts and feelings. Occasions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and what would have been the babies due date. You could also consider sending a private pre-warning to the individual ahead of the announcement of another colleague’s baby, for example.
- Be as flexible as possible – there is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting an employee through baby loss. Some may require a phased return to work whilst others may prefer regular informal check in’s, being asked the open question ‘how are you’ and fully listened to. Parents who try for another child after losing one will likely need more check-ups and their partners will understandably want to be there to support them. Although the law states that partners are only entitled to attend two appointments, there is nothing stopping a company allowing their partners time off work to attend every appointment. This will be particularly helpful to those who have lost a baby previously and so understandably, anxieties around appointments will be higher.
- Is there anyone in your business who might have been through baby loss and would like to volunteer to act as a mentor for other colleagues? Can they have a safe, private space where they can go and talk to someone who is struggling?
To ensure staff going through baby loss are fully supported, it is crucial that Line Managers, HR Managers and anyone else who will be dealing with a colleague who has lost a baby, are trained. These individuals need to feel comfortable and confident in dealing with these challenging situations. It cannot be left to chance that they know what to say or do, they need proper training which should be refreshed at least every 12 months to ensure it is a meaningful exercise and not just a tick box exercise. It is also advisable to create ‘Management guidelines’ with any policy you create, so the Manager implementing it will always have something to refer to, to help guide them through it. Interestingly, a study by Tommys, the baby loss charity, found that 69% of parents felt their Manager wanted to support them, but only 33% said they actually knew how to!
There are also some fantastic charities which offer free support and guidance to anyone affected by baby loss:
- Miscarriage association – The Miscarriage Association: Pregnancy loss information and support
- Tommys – Together, for every baby – Charity for Babies | Tommy’s (tommys.org)
These resources can support you in knowing what to say, and what not to say, to someone who has lost a baby. For example, comments such as ‘at least you weren’t too far along’ or ‘you can always try for another’ are extremely unhelpful, despite their intention. As a general rule of thumb, they advise that you don’t start a sentence with ‘at least…’
Some key takeaways:
- Ensure your Line Managers are fully trained and supported so they can confidently and comfortably support the employee who has lost their baby.
- Create a policy which includes Management guidelines. If the policy can be separate to other policies then great, we can provide Still Birth/Neonatal Loss policies for you. If you don’t want a completely separate policy, be mindful of which policy it goes in (not the Maternity Policy, perhaps the Compassionate Leave or bereavement leave Policy).
- Be mindful of key dates which could upset someone who’s gone through baby loss (i.e. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and what would have been the babies due date). You could also consider sending a private pre-warning to the individual ahead of the announcement of another colleague’s baby, for example.
- Consider the partner of the person who has lost their baby. They will most definitely be going through the same amount of trauma, they may just be hiding it to protect their partner.
- Remember, there is no one-size fits all. Every individual will experience different symptoms and emotions and will require different support. Show empathy and understanding and ask them how you can help them.
Reach out to us and we can help you implement all of the above.
? Connect with us on LinkedIn – Peach Law (HR & Employment Law Specialists)
? 0161 478 3800