Baby loss survey report urges change to workplace culture

Research by the UK’s professional body for people working in HR and people development has found there is a shortage of workplace pregnancy and baby loss support for employees.

The CIPD’s Workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss survey found that just 25% of employees who have experienced pregnancy or baby loss received paid compassionate or other special leave from their employer in addition to any statutory entitlement such as sick pay.

Just 1 in 3 (37%) organisations have a formal policy to support employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss, the survey suggests.

1 in 5 people who had experienced pregnancy or baby loss said they didn’t receive any support from their employer. Only 40% of employees who experienced pregnancy or baby loss felt their manager showed understanding that it can be a challenging time.

The CIPD's findings echo the results of our Tommy’s workplace surveys in 2021 and 2022, which found that despite best intentions, most line managers don’t know what to say or do to help their employees after a pregnancy loss.

In our survey, just 10% of respondents this year answered ‘yes’ when asked whether their employer has a miscarriage and baby loss policy, either on its own or within an existing policy. More than a quarter did not know if there was a policy or not.

Tommy's is proud to have supported the CIPD's research and their ongoing work to help employers better support people through pregnancy and baby loss.

We're also backing the CIPD’s call for businesses to ensure they have effective support in place for employees, including an inclusive policy that recognises all experiences of pregnancy and baby loss. Through our Pregnancy and Parenting at Work programme, we’re helping organisations shape their policies and change workplace cultures which for too long have treated pregnancy and baby loss as taboo.

In the UK, 1 in 4 UK pregnancies ends in loss. Parents can take maternity or paternity leave if this happens after 24 weeks of pregnancy, but we know that even early losses can take weeks to physically recover from, and any loss can have a lifelong psychological impact.  

Despite affecting so many people on such a deep level, few workplaces currently have specific support in place for employees who lose babies, although progress is starting to be made and many high-profile organisations are starting to introduce pregnancy loss policies. 

Policies backed by culture change

We know that introducing a policy isn’t enough by itself - our own research and the CIPD’s findings show that policy introduction needs to be followed through with a commitment to actioning it properly. Employers must make sure that line managers are equipped with specialist training to handle sensitive issues appropriately.

Only a quarter of senior HR professionals and decision makers surveyed by the CIPD said that their organisation encourages an open and supportive climate, where employees can talk about sensitive issues like pregnancy loss.

Tommy’s Head of Corporate Partnerships Rosie Leverton says: 

Policies must be accompanied by training and a wider shift in culture to help develop supportive workplace communities where people feel able to share what’s happening or has happened, ask managers for help when needed, and ensure they get the sort of help that is appropriate and works for them.

Rachel Suff, senior wellbeing adviser for the CIPD says:

Pregnancy and baby loss affect people across the UK every day. Workplace support can make a real difference to employees during a difficult time. Employers should manage absence and leave with compassion and flexibility, and make sure line managers know how to support people with sensitivity and understanding.

Jill Miller, senior diversity and inclusion adviser for the CIPD highlights that pregnancy and baby loss policies must also include partners:

Pregnancy and baby loss don’t just impact women in the workplace. Employers should ensure their workplace support includes partners, who are often providing support as well as grieving themselves. It’s essential that the organisation’s approach is underpinned by the principles of empathy and inclusivity.