Firms in Leeds and West Yorkshire sign up to make changes in the workplace for people after miscarriage
Businesses across Leeds and West Yorkshire are pledging support to people who have suffered pregnancy loss by making changes to work policies - and attitudes to miscarriage.
JPI Media and The Yorkshire Evening has post has signed up to the The Miscarriage Association which is urging other businesses and organisations to agree to meet its new pregnancy loss standard.
The Pregnancy Loss Standard is designed to ensure that staff going through what can be a very difficult or traumatic time get the support and time off they need.
At JPI Media, any employee who experiences pregnancy loss, or is the partner of someone who experiences pregnancy loss, will now be eligible to a period of paid leave to support them in recovering from the physical and emotional consequences of their loss.
At present, there is no statutory entitlement to paid leave for people who lose a baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy. From 24 weeks, when the loss of a baby is legally a stillbirth, mothers are entitled to full maternity leave and both parents are entitled to two weeks of paid Parental Bereavement Leave.
A survey by the Miscarriage Association showed almost half of respondents felt they had to return to work before they were ready, with many not knowing or not being told about their right to pregnancy-related leave.
However, the culture in many work places is beginning to change and this new campaign, which runs at the same time as Baby Loss Awareness Week (October 9 to 15), hopes to make more progress on what has long been considered a 'taboo' subject.
Miscarriage Association National Director Ruth Bender Atik said: “Since we launched our workplace resources a year ago, it’s been very heartening to see so many organisations, large and small, who are already committed to supporting their staff through what can be an extremely distressing experience.
"But we know there is more to be done and our aim is that every workplace acknowledges the impact of pregnancy loss and treats their staff with empathy and understanding.”
Claire Morley Jones is the managing director at Wetherby based firm HR180 which takes on outsourced HR duties for companies. Most of the staff at HR180 are female employees and when it started only a couple had children but more and more have now become mums.
She said: "All of us have gone through some traumatic process as a result of giving birth. None of us have lost a baby - that is important to state - however, on several occasions it has been a very distinct possibility.
"It made us think again about what we offer and how we offer it. It has always been important that we support each other and do everything to help each other but I didn't want it to be implied.
"I wanted to be able to say, and be really clear with everybody, if something happens you do not need to worry and we will be here for you and this is the minimum that you can expect because otherwise you have the additional anxiety, on top of dealing with everything, of not knowing what my discretion is."
Ms Morley Jones has also worked on policies surrounding menopause, for example, and believes that having work place policies and guidelines makes people more comfortable talking about issues.
She added: "It is about erosion of barriers and leaving your stuff at the door and your home and work life is completely separate. I think there is a lot less of that and most of our clients are much more caring. They do care about the person that comes to work for them and don't just expect them to deliver productivity.
"They want them to feel valued and part of that is being open and free to talk about things and knowing their employer would be there to support them. I have seen a real culture shift, particularly over the course of the last five years. You need to have a connection and engagement, people need to know who you are and what you stand for."
UK Coaching, a Leeds based charity which organises learning in the sports sector, has not only incorporated guidelines for mothers to be that have suffered pregnancy loss but also fathers, same sex couples, grandparents and women who have had an abortion.
Amy Doram, is the organisation's Head of People and Culture and said when she joined in January, policies were outdated but have since been re-written to become "forward-thinking".
She said: "Pregnancy loss is becoming more of a topic and when I did introductory meetings one lady told me she suffered a pregnancy loss and while the company had been brilliant, there had been nothing in writing, it was that her line manager had been empathic and supportive. I thought, 'let's put our money were our mouth is' and get something in writing."
UK Coaching's resources for people that are dealing with pregnancy loss are written in the form of a letter, and while containing the legal requirements, they have a more personal touch.
She explained: "We want it to speak to people, it is not about entitlement, it is about care and compassion. There is not a great deal like this out there, it is really forward thinking. It was interesting that we put this out there and then Channel 4 went public about its policy.
"It is the right thing to do to look at these things, we want to lead the way for smaller businesses to show that we can rip up the rule book. We don't judge, if someone has chosen to have an abortion we will support that because that is a hugely emotional time, we don't know what has happened.
"I hope more do this (sign up the pledge) and one of the things we are in the process of doing is having sections on our website where we post all the guidelines. I believe the guidelines and procedures are pretty ground-breaking for a small company and we want to share that with the world."
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