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Practices urged to offer paid leave to staff experiencing pregnancy loss

Practices urged to offer paid leave to staff experiencing pregnancy loss

Practices are being encouraged to adopt measures – including offering paid time off – to support staff who suffer a miscarriage in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Under a new NHS policy for staff on pregnancy loss, hailed as ‘groundbreaking’, NHS organisations and employers are asked to offer women who experience a miscarriage up to 10 days’ additional paid leave. Partners should be offered up to five days.

Staff should also be given paid time off to attend appointments including for medical examinations, scans and tests, as well as for mental health-related interventions.

The policy, launched last week, and developed with the Miscarriage Association, is designed to be a guide to best practice.

NHS England has said it will be down to GPs ‘on how they conduct policies using their own procedures’. Other NHS organisations, including hospitals, are being asked to adopt this framework via their local procedures and in agreement with local trade unions.

The policy’s main aim is ‘to provide the support people need during this difficult time in their life’, as well as to advise managers and colleagues on how to offer that support.

For example, it encourages those affected to talk to their manager or a colleague at work, so they can access help available; or use an employee assistance programme where one is in place.

Meanwhile, managers are given information about their responsibilities, how to deal with a pregnancy or baby loss that happens at work, and procedures for managing absence.

The document also includes links to useful organisations they can signpost to.

The introduction of paid leave for NHS staff following a miscarriage was first trialled at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Trust, where a staff survey found that staff were twice as likely to stay with their employer as a result of the policy.

One in four pregnancies in the UK end in miscarriage. However, a survey from the HR body, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that almost a quarter (24%) of UK employees that had experienced pregnancy or baby loss left their jobs following a poor experience with their organisations.

The NHS policy covers, but is not limited to, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, and termination of pregnancy.

Stillbirth or neonatal loss from 24 weeks of pregnancy are not included – those who experience this will remain eligible for paid maternity/paternity leave.

Dr Navina Evans, chief workforce, training and education officer at NHS England said: ‘Baby loss is an extremely traumatic experience that hundreds of NHS staff experience each year, and it is right they are treated with the utmost care and compassion when going through such an upsetting experience.


‘I hope that this formal guidance will see other sectors in the UK adopt such supportive approaches to miscarriage in their own organisations.’

Kath Abrahams, chief executive of Tommy’s, the baby loss and pregnancy research charity, said this was a ‘groundbreaking policy’.

She added: ‘As the largest employer in the UK, the NHS is sending a powerful signal that staff going through this experience deserve understanding, compassion and the right to grieve – and that support is possible, no matter what your workplace looks like’.

What the policy offers

  • Up to 10 days’ paid leave for the mother or parent who was pregnant and up to 5 days’ leave for the partner. This is not dependent upon gestation of pregnancy (how long someone has been pregnant for) or length of service with the organisation. A ‘Fitness for Work’ statement from the GP is not required, unless additional time off from work is needed.
  • Staff to be offered paid time-off for appointments linked to pregnancy or baby loss, for example, medical examinations, scans and tests and mental health related interventions, if this stretches beyond the time outlined above.
  • Requests to work flexibly following a loss to be be treated with understanding and sensitivity. This may include home working for a period of time (where practical) or changing someone’s hours of work or shift pattern.

Source: NHS England, National pregnancy and baby loss people policy framework

This article was first published by our sister title Management in Practice

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