New support after pregnancy or baby loss before 24 weeks gestation

One of our health and safety reps discusses NHS England’s policy framework

New support after pregnancy or baby loss before 24 weeks gestation

In the UK an estimated one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and 24 per cent of surveyed employees have left or considered leaving their job due to poor support following a miscarriage. Yet we rarely talk about this. This is deeply saddening and has implications for already-suboptimal NHS staffing levels. But there are now signs of change. 

In March, NHS England published a policy framework that encourages NHS employers in England to offer up to 10 days paid ‘special leave’ to staff who experience a miscarriage – and five days to partners. This leave should not contribute to sickness triggers and a GP note isn’t initially required. Paid time-off to attend related appointments for physical and mental health needs is also encouraged.

Miscarriage’ is the term used to describe pregnancy or baby loss during the first 23 weeks gestation. Depending on the circumstances, the mother or person who was pregnant may require surgery or experience a recognisable process of labour. Miscarriage at any stage can be a traumatic and devastating experience.   

NHS England’s National Policy Framework is a step towards acknowledging a miscarriage is a family bereavement which has physical, mental and emotional health implications, possibly for months and years afterwards. NHS England is opening up a conversation that is needed and encouraging kindness and understanding at a challenging and often isolating time in a person’s life. 

Given the potential to improve support for and retention of staff, and as a CSP rep and a person with lived experience, I’d like to see the framework’s content agreed locally without delay. 

CSP members should speak with their safety reps and stewards, asking them to highlight this new guidance to the management team at staff partnership and policy groups for local adoption. Members outside of England could utilise the framework as an example of good practice that could be adopted across the UK. 

This article was edited on 21 May 2024 to reflect the language used in the national Policy Framework, at the request of the contributing author

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