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Around 7 in 10 people surveyed by Tommy’s, a pregnancy charity, said their manager wanted to provide support but didn’t know what to say or do.
Workplaces and managers continue to struggle with how to support their staff after pregnancy loss, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
Around 7 in 10 people who completed an annual survey by Tommy’s, a pregnancy charity, said their manager did not know how to support them after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or losing their baby shortly after birth. The same proportion felt that their manager wanted to provide support, but did not know what to say or do.
In recent years, companies such as Channel 4, the digital bank Monzo, and the supermarket Co-op have introduced pregnancy loss policies that offer employees paid time off if they lose a baby at any stage of a pregnancy. The banking group NatWest and the energy company Centrica run employee support networks about a range of fertility issues, as well as subsidising some fertility treatments for staff.
However, in this year’s Tommy’s survey, the proportion of people saying that their manager did not know how to support them is broadly unchanged from last year. The charity says these results suggest that policies alone are not enough, and more needs to be done to train managers and change workplace culture.
“Tommy’s has long campaigned to break the silence around baby loss, and while it feels that progress is starting to be made with pregnancy loss policies beginning to come into place, and through the conversations prompted by stories shared, for many of us that stigma and silence remains,” Jacqui Clinton, Tommy’s fundraising director, said in a statement.
“A real cultural shift is needed to develop supportive workplace communities where people feel able to share things with their colleagues, ask managers for help when needed, and ensure they get the sort of help that is appropriate and works for them.”
In the UK 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss, according to Tommy’s. Parents can take maternity or paternity leave if this happens after 24 weeks of pregnancy, but even early losses can take weeks to physically recover from and have a lifelong psychological impact.
Just 10% of survey respondents answered ‘yes’ when asked whether their employer has a miscarriage and baby loss policy, while 63% said no and the remainder did not know.
Last year Tommy’s launched Pregnancy and Parenting at Work, a training programme to help workplaces support their employees through pregnancy, from planning and parenting to complications and losses. Employers such as Bupa Global and Santander are currently partnering with the charity to provide training and resources for their managers.
For the past two decades, the annual Baby Loss Awareness Week has also given parents a space to come together and share stories.
“We completely understand that it can be difficult to know what to say or do when a colleague is impacted by loss – finding the right action or putting your empathy into words is tough and everyone is different,” Clinton said. “But as our survey results indicate, saying or doing nothing is worse.”