People are calling for paid miscarriage leave in the UK

Jennifer Savin
·4-min read
Photo credit: A                                    - Getty Images
Photo credit: A - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

People are calling for the UK government to adopt a policy to help those who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, after New Zealand just signed off on a similar clause for its citizens. Under the new law, both the person carrying the baby and their partner will now be eligible for three days of paid bereavement leave under a new law approved by parliament.

MP Ginny Andersen, who championed the bill, said it would allow couples more time to "come to terms with their loss" without taking sick leave (which can be unpaid). This same bill would also apply to anybody who had hoped to welcome a child by surrogacy or adoption.

Andersen said in a tweet, "This is a Bill about workers’ rights and fairness. I hope it gives people time to grieve and promotes greater openness about miscarriage. We should not be fearful of our bodies."

It's thought that New Zealand is only one of two countries in the world to introduce such important measures (the other being India).

Currently, in the UK, workers are entitled to two weeks of bereavement leave following the death of a child under the age of eighteen, a policy which includes stillbirths after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The policy, which was introduced last year, was met with mixed reviews, explains Alex Christen, an employment lawyer at Capital Law.

Photo credit: Konstantin Postumitenko - Getty Images
Photo credit: Konstantin Postumitenko - Getty Images

"On the one hand, many felt it set a minimum benchmark ensuring grieving parents were given time where they did not have to worry about work but still received some pay," says Christen. "On the other hand, many felt it was unnecessary to legislate for something that many employers already allowed for."

She adds that while that may be true, employers aren't always aware of or sensitive to the issues faced by many during the often difficult process of trying for a child. "Pregnant women who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth before 24 weeks are entitled to some protection under discrimination laws, and cannot be treated unfavourably because of their pregnancy for a finite period," Christen notes. "So the law in the UK does offer some protection, but it is limited, and there is no statutory entitlement to leave where the baby is lost during the early stages of pregnancy."

Since hearing the news, many have taken to social media to say what a brilliant and necessary idea it is, and to encourage it to become a more widespread policy. Writing about the news one Twitter, one woman said, "The fact that New Zealand have signed off on paid miscarriage leave is amazing. But it also highlights the fact that we don’t have it here. We absolutely need to discuss how/when we can make that happen."

She added, "At the moment if you have a miscarriage you are not entitled to anything. You can ask your doctor to sign you off and they may or may not choose to do so. You could easily be at work the next day. You will almost certainly be back at work while you’re still bleeding."

Another shared: "I had five miscarriages and only once called out sick after, mainly because I didn’t wanna tell anyone. This will absolutely help some of that stigma."

Tommy’s CEO Jane Brewin told Cosmopolitan, "Losing a baby at any stage in pregnancy is one of the most devastating things any family can experience – and one that’s endured all too frequently but often quietly, due to persistent stigma in society."

Brewin added, "Shrouding baby loss in secrecy and shame can lead to isolation for grieving parents, and this new legislation is an important step in breaking that silence so that anyone struggling feels able to reach out for help.

"Although the UK doesn’t have formal bereavement leave, maternity benefits will still apply after a stillbirth, and Tommy’s offers a ‘Pregnancy At Work’ service for employers to support parents through any pregnancy journey."

We're in full support that this policy should be adopted in the UK - given that it's estimated that between one in four and one in eight pregnancies end in a miscarriage, it would no doubt help so many.

If you're looking for support or more information about premature births, stillbirths or miscarriage,Tommy's have a free helpline 0800 0147 800 (open 9 - 5, Monday to Friday). There's also a Facebook group.

Cosmopolitan UK's current issue is out now and you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

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