Protection for parental bereavement during pregnancy written into council policy

Wirral Council has become one of the first local authorities in England to introduce a policy that sets out how it will support employees who are affected by pregnancy loss.

The policy has been developed jointly with Wirral Unison and stems from a suggestion from a local union official. It will provide support to all employees who experience the loss of a pregnancy – not only directly, but also if they are a partner or a surrogate – and takes no account of the nature of the loss or an employee’s length of service.

In simple terms, it specifies a minimum of two weeks paid leave and paid leave for any medical appointments after a pregnancy loss. However, the policy also acknowledges that everybody’s experiences will be different and employees will be supported for however long it takes them to feel emotionally and physically able to return to work.

In addition, the Pregnancy Loss Policy aims to provide advice and guidance for line managers and colleagues to enable them to sensitively support those affected by the loss of a pregnancy.

Wirral Council leader, Cllr Janette Williamson, said, “We are so proud to support the introduction of this policy. The experience of pregnancy loss is poorly understood due to the silence and stigma that often surrounds it.

“The impact can vary from person to person, but it is always an incredibly painful event that can have a lasting physical and emotional impact on those experiencing it and their families, no matter the nature of the loss or when it happens.

“It is important to us that our staff not only know their managers, colleagues and employer will give them all the time, space and assistance they need should the unthinkable happen but also that that commitment is enshrined in a written policy.”

Pregnancy loss is more common than many people think. The Miscarriage Association estimates that one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage; one in every 200 births in the UK each year is classed as stillborn; and it is estimated that one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

Danielle Vipond, Wirral Unison’s Deputy Branch Secretary, said, “It was important for us at Wirral Unison to have policies in place that protect our members.  And the pregnancy loss policy felt like a natural next step for us after we negotiated extended paid maternity leave for our female members during the pandemic.

“Although this is a policy that will predominantly support women, we wanted it to recognise that pregnancy loss as an experience is not just isolated to women or heterosexual couples. As a result, this policy will also support the partners of women who experience a loss and loss through surrogacy. 

“We are pleased to have worked collaboratively and positively with Wirral Council to develop a policy that supports staff and gives them one less thing to worry about whilst going through one of the most difficult times they will experience in their lives. 

“Unison is delighted that Wirral Council is now one of the first local authorities to have a standalone Pregnancy Loss Policy and it is something we are all very proud of.”

The policy covers (but is not limited to) miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, and neonatal loss. It provides links to a range of external organisations who can provide support.

Image: Ekaterina

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