Home » NHS England trusts advised to offer women two weeks’ miscarriage leave

NHS England trusts advised to offer women two weeks’ miscarriage leave

Non-compulsory guidance issued by head office also recognises fathers’ right to grieve after loss of a baby

by Narges Mohammadi

Women working for the NHS will be entitled to two weeks’ leave if they have a miscarriage, in a move hailed as a major step to wider recognition of the trauma of baby loss.

NHS England announced on Wednesday that all staff who lose a baby before 24 weeks should receive up to 10 days’ paid leave to help them recover from the distress involved.

“Baby loss is an extremely traumatic experience that hundreds of NHS staff experience each year and it is right that they are treated with the utmost care and compassion when going through such an upsetting experience,” said Dr Navina Evans, its chief officer for workforce, training and education.

Women will also be able to take further paid time off after a miscarriage for medical examinations, scans or other tests, or to receive mental health support, as well as the two-week grieving period.

The partners of women who have a miscarriage will also gain up to five days of paid leave as a new right, if they also work for the NHS, as part of the initiative. Both the 10 days for women and five days for men will have to be taken as one block.

One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. Many staff do not return to work after losing a baby, according to research highlighted by the Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s, the baby loss charity.

NHS England has drawn up guidance outlining its new approach to miscarriage. It is sending it to all 220 health service trusts that provide care, which between them employ about 1.4 million personnel, 70% of whom are female.

However, while it is encouraging trusts to adopt the policy, it cannot compel them to do so. Trusts will decide for themselves whether to offer the leave to staff.

NHS England believes the leave will help the service – which has 132,000 vacancies – tackle the problem of retaining staff, as significant numbers leave early in their careers or retire early.

It hopes to ensure that 130,000 fewer staff leave over the next 15 years as part of the NHS long-term workforce plan published last year. It promised to make the health service a more compassionate and inclusive place, in which staff wellbeing is a key priority.

NHS England’s initiative has been prompted in part by the success of the scheme at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s trust, which introduced it in 2021. A survey at the trust found that staff were twice as likely to stay with the trust because of the policy.

“I hope this national policy to support mothers 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,” said Raffaela Goodby, the trust’s chief people officer.

NHS England, which is by far the UK’s largest employer, now joins a list of organizations that offer paid miscarriage leave that includes: the Co-op; Channel 4; Oxford, Exeter and Essex universities; and Hodge, Jones & Allen, a London law firm.

Rachel Hutchings, a fellow at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, said its recent research into how parenting and caring responsibilities affect surgeons found that some staff who had a miscarriage did not feel well supported by the NHS.

“Although some organizations had already introduced additional support for people who experienced baby loss, it is incredibly welcome that this policy recognizes the experiences of these individuals and will ensure a more consistent approach”, said Hutchings.

Nikki Pound, the women’s policy office at the Trades Union Congress, praised the NHS’s “very welcome step and urged all employers to grant paid leave to staff who suffer pregnancy loss.

“This should be part of a wider policy on pregnancy loss to help staff with the care and support they need, including partners. As well as paid leave, employers should think about the additional flexibility staff may need and training for line managers,” she added.

Kath Abrahams, the chief executive of Tommy’s, said the NHS policy was “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.”

Source: Guardian

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