Miscarriage Leave Bill
Under current laws, those who suffer pregnancy loss after 24 weeks are legally entitled to maternity/paternity leave and pay. However, there is currently no legal provision for paid leave for people who sadly suffer the loss of a pregnancy before 24 weeks, meaning that many employees are forced to return to work immediately after suffering such a loss.
A landmark Bill which has been proposed and is likely to become law next year would guarantee 3 days of paid bereavement leave for people who have experienced miscarriage. In preparation, employers are urged to state their position on leave following a miscarriage in a policy which is easily accessible to staff and to ensure that all managers are trained to ensure consistent implementation.
Where the employer does not have any specific policies in place relating to miscarriage or stillbirth, the employee may seek medical advice and be signed off work sick. In this case, the employee’s sick pay is paid in the same way as for any other sickness absence.
The Equality Act 2010 protects against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or pregnancy related sickness. It covers a period of two weeks from the end of a pregnancy for those women who are not entitled to maternity leave. Therefore, if they have been discriminated against following this period, they can make a claim for sex discrimination. However, they will need to prove they have been treated less favourably than a man who has taken sick leave.
As an employer, you must ensure you treat the employee fairly. It is unlawful to dismiss someone for absence directly caused by miscarriage.
Employers need to know that because miscarriage is such a common and widespread issue, most workplaces are likely to have staff who have been or may be affected. We provide guidance in managing this, below:
- Speak to the employee to determine if any reasonable adjustments can be made that will support them
- Ask the employee what they would wish their colleagues to know, if anything.
- Consider a phased return where the employee works reduced hours for a period of time or undertakes different duties.
- Consider offering flexible working or hybrid working between the workplace and home for a period of time
- Consider whether the business can offer more support, such as professional counselling, for example.
The next Parliamentary sitting for the bill is 24 November 2023 and we will continue to keep you informed of any progress with this legislation.