George F Winter examines issues surrounding miscarriage and stillbirth, including how the lack of paid leave and how language and behaviour can impact parents after such a loss
According to the Miscarriage Association (2021) more than one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage, probably around a quarter of a million in the UK each year, and although most miscarriages occur in the first 3 months of pregnancy, they can happen up to week 24, with pregnancy loss from 24 weeks known as stillbirth.
On 13 May 2021, Angela Crawley (2021) MP tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the UK Government to introduce paid miscarriage leave. Crawley noted that while 2 weeks parental bereavement leave and pay are provided after stillbirth in the UK, no such support exists for anyone who has experienced a miscarriage before 24 weeks of pregnancy. The motion was unsuccessful.
Citing the motion, Hodson (2021) makes several important points. First, in March 2021, the New Zealand Government introduced 3 days of bereavement leave for women and their partners following miscarriage. Second, women who miscarry before 24 weeks are entitled to sick leave with the additional protections afforded by the Equalities Act, but half of the women who miscarry are not aware of their employment rights. Third, and perhaps most importantly, ‘the cliffedge at 24 weeks is a stark injustice demanding remedy.’ Yet while Hodson (2021) correctly identifies an injustice to be remedied, he also acknowledges that the motion raises questions such as, how many days should be included? Why exclude termination of pregnancy? What about women who cannot tell their employer they are trying to start a family?
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