Stillbirth or miscarriage
If a child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy, the:
- birth mother can get up to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave or pay
- birth father can get up to 2 weeks of paternity leave or pay
- partner of the birth mother or adopter can get up to 2 weeks of paternity leave or pay
They will both be entitled to 2 weeks of parental bereavement leave after they finish their maternity or paternity leave.
While the legal name for the time off is 'statutory maternity' and 'statutory paternity' leave, some employees might not want to call the time off 'maternity' or 'paternity' leave if their baby has died. Employers should be sensitive to the employee's preference and be led by them when having conversations about leave.
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Time off after a miscarriage
If a miscarriage happens in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, there's no entitlement to statutory maternity, paternity or parental bereavement leave.
However, many people would still consider miscarriage a bereavement. An employer should still consider offering time off at what can be an extremely difficult time, both physically and emotionally.
Some employers might have a policy that says employees can take a period of paid leave specifically for pregnancy loss.
Discussing a miscarriage can be very upsetting. Employers should treat anyone affected by miscarriage with care and in a way that acknowledges their loss. The employer should also support them in the same way they would support someone after a death.
Protection for time off after a miscarriage
If a miscarriage happens in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, any sickness absence the birth mother needs to take is likely to be considered a 'pregnancy-related illness'.
'Pregnancy and maternity' is a 'protected characteristic' under the Equality Act 2010. If an employee is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of a pregnancy-related illness or related time off this could be discrimination.
The Equality Act 2010 has a 'protected period' for people who do not have a right to statutory maternity leave. The protected period lasts for 2 weeks after the pregnancy ends.
Any sickness absence during the protected period that is pregnancy related should be recorded separately from other sickness absence. You should not count these absences towards any review or trigger points in your absence policy.
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Supporting an employee after a miscarriage
Employers should consider what's best for their employee, depending on their specific circumstances and needs. They could support someone's return to work by:
- agreeing to make reasonable adjustments to their working patterns
- allowing a phased return or period of home working
Employers could also consider:
- creating a miscarriage policy that offers paid leave
- including miscarriage in any existing bereavement leave policies