At the end of March 2021, New Zealand hit the headlines for something other than its exemplary response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time the Commonwealth country was being applauded for offering bereavement leave to mothers and their partners who had experienced pregnancy loss, including miscarriages and stillbirths.
These three days of leave applies to parents, their partners, and parents having a baby through adoption or surrogacy.
The law was introduced by Labour MP Ginny Andersen who noted that this meant parents would deal with their grief without worrying about having to use their workplace sick leave entitlements.
Andersen commented: “The grief that comes with miscarriage is not a sickness; it is a loss.”
“That loss takes time – time to recover physically and time to recover mentally; time to recover with a partner.”
In doing so, New Zealand joins many Asian countries, including India and the Philippines, in offering bereavement leave linked to miscarriages.
In India, there is legislation that gives women up to six weeks of paid leave if they experience a miscarriage at any stage of their pregnancy, while Filipino mothers are entitled to 60 days of paid leave for pregnancy loss, including for emergency terminations and abortions.
Unfortunately, these countries are the exception to the rule and other Western countries are lagging behind – despite one in four recognized pregnancies ending in miscarriage, according to the pregnancy charity Tommy’s.
However, just because it isn’t mandated by law, this doesn’t mean companies cannot step up and offer support and paid time off to employees suffering from grief.
Let’s take a look at some companies that are ahead of the curve when it comes to offering support to employees.
UK challenger bank Monzo has introduced policy of paid leave for employees who have suffered pregnancy loss – whether that is miscarriage, abortion, or still birth.
The Independent reported that Monzo’s policy, like New Zealand’s, acknowledges that miscarriage does not just affect women or heterosexual couples; therefore, its pregnancy loss leave will also be available to partners or surrogate mothers.
While Monzo’s policy is for up to 10 days of paid leave, the bank noted that extra leave could be approved by managers if they felt the staff member was not ready to return to work.
In addition, the challenger bank has set up an employee support group for employees going through similar journeys.
According to the Guardian, Monzo rolled out this policy in the UK in March and is planning to about introduce the policy to its US staff in the next few months.
At the same time as introducing its new miscarriage leave policy, the challenger bank also began offering staff and their partners undergoing fertility treatments an extra eight days off in paid fertility leave every year.
In April 2021, UK-based TV network Channel 4 announced it would be introducing a pregnancy loss policy for its staff, in what it claimed to be a world’s first.
In a release, Channel 4 wrote that this policy, which encompasses miscarriage, stillbirth, and abortion, will “support both women and men who have been affected — whether it happens directly to them, their partner or their baby’s surrogate mother, regardless of the nature of their loss, and whatever their length of service. It also recognizes pregnancy loss as an experience not isolated to women or heterosexual couples.”
The policy will give individuals two weeks fully paid time off, as well as more paid leave for medical appointments and access to flexible working and an array of resources, including counselling and a buddy scheme for when they return to work.
Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said: “At Channel 4 we recognize that the loss of a pregnancy, no matter the circumstances, can be a form of grief that can have a lasting emotional and physical impact on the lives of many women and their partners.
“Our dedicated policy by 4Women [Channel 4’s in-house gender equality network] will help confront a subject that remains taboo whilst providing Channel 4’s employees with vital tools and support.
“We hope that by giving away this pioneering policy we’re able to encourage other organizations to do the same.”
Channel 4 notes that this pregnancy loss policy builds on its menopause policy, which was introduced in 2019.
Australia-based ‘buy now pay later’ company Zip has also embraced bereavement leave for pregnancy loss this year.
In April, inspired by New Zealand’s move, Zip announced in a release that it would offer two weeks paid leave to parents, including partners, following pregnancy loss before 20 weeks. The policy will be available to all employees, irrespective of tenure.
Those who experience pregnancy loss after 20 weeks are already covered by Zip’s parental leave policy – where primary carers get 16 weeks paid leave while secondary carers get 4 weeks paid.
Zip CEO Larry Diamond said: “This is a vital policy for everyone at Zip.
“We are a modern company, and we want our staff to feel valued and supported; this means having policies that help them with big life events such as pregnancy loss.
“But this is also about normalizing and changing the conversation globally.”
London-based InsureTech company YuLife was also inspired by New Zealand’s move in launching miscarriage leave for its employees, and so decided to launch its own policy in late April.
YuLife’s pregnancy loss policy gives employees five days of paid leave whether they or their partner are the one who miscarried.
According to HCAMag’s interview with Cali Gold, YuLife’s head of people, the introduction of this policy was a top-down decision from the C-suite and it only took three weeks from concept to implementation.
As well as introducing miscarriage bereavement leave, YuLife has also updated its other parental leave plans. This includes 16 weeks of fully paid leave during a child’s first five years – eight weeks are used at birth, but the rest can be used at any point before the child’s fifth birthday.
Any new joiners with children aged under five will also have access to these eight weeks of additional parental leave to be used before the child turns five.
Gold told HCAMag: “We thought that five years was a helpful window for parents as it covers pre-school years. The first five years is also a crucial time in a child’s development.”