Paid leave for NHS staff experiencing pregnancy loss

NHS staff who suffer a miscarriage will now receive up to 10 days additional paid leave, under new guidance issued to local hospitals today.

Women who experience a miscarriage in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy will be offered up to 10 days paid leave and their partners will be offered up to 5.

While those who experience a loss after 6 months of pregnancy will remain eligible for paid maternity leave.

Couples often struggle to take the time they need to heal from the trauma of pregnancy loss, but in a healthcare sector first, the NHS has created national, formal guidance for local services to follow for their staff.

The National pregnancy and baby loss people policy framework will ask NHS trusts to give staff paid time off to attend appointments including for medical examinations, scans and tests, as well as mental health-related interventions.

Staff who return from work after their pregnancy loss will be offered occupational health support including referrals to specialist services at their trust, or specialist miscarriage and baby loss charities and organisations.

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.

1 in 4 pregnancies in the UK end in miscarriage, meaning that hundreds of NHS staff experience miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or medical termination every year.

A national Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey 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.

Dr Navina Evans, Chief Workforce, Training and Education Officer 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.

“We know the significance of getting support right in the very first instance for our staff, which is why for the first time in the healthcare sector we are providing paid leave so parents can take time out to process this traumatic experience as well as paid time to attend appointments.

“I hope that this formal guidance will see other sectors in the UK adopt such supportive approaches to miscarriage in their own organisations – and if you have experienced baby loss, please come forward to one of our bereavement services which have been rolled out nationally, from this month”.

Raffaela Goodby, Chief People Officer at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s who first trialled the policy said: “I hope this national policy to support mother’s and parents with love and compassion at a terrible time in their employment is welcomed across the NHS and drives positive change across the UK.

“Structured support at work for people experiencing miscarriage can have a lifelong impact on the people involved, I hope policies like this become the norm for the NHS and I am grateful to Staff Side, NHS England, Tommy’s and the Miscarriage Association for their energy and support”.

Minister for Women’s Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield said: “Our brilliant NHS workers look after us when we need it most and this new guidance is a positive step towards ensuring they are supported through the tragedy of losing of a baby.

“It means doctors, nurses and their partners will now be entitled to additional leave to help process their grief, which is crucial to their long-term mental health and wellbeing.

“This delivers on key recommendations made in the Pregnancy loss review and is part of our efforts to improve women’s health through the Women’s health strategy. We look forward to announcing further support measures to help parents going through this heartbreaking experience”.

Kath Abrahams, Chief Executive of Tommy’s, the baby loss and pregnancy research charity, said: “Pregnancy loss can take a huge toll on women and birthing people, both physically and mentally. Their partners may also be profoundly affected.

“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.

“We know from the Tommy’s Pregnancy and Parenting at Work training scheme what a difference it makes when this kind of policy is embedded and implemented effectively across organisations of all sizes, including NHS trusts. We’re delighted to stand with NHS England as they introduce this ground-breaking policy”.