Losing a baby is a deeply personal experience that affects people differently. No matter when in your pregnancy you miscarry, you will need time to process your emotions. You may need support to help you come to terms with what’s happened.
Can I get maternity leave and sick pay?
Miscarriage can be a traumatic experience, so remember that you may need time to recover emotionally as well as physically. Your partner (if you have one) may also need to take some compassionate leave. This may be to recover emotionally or to care for you.
Unfortunately, people who have experienced miscarriage cannot receive maternity leave or pay. This can be very difficult for some women, especially if they have had a late miscarriage.
It can be very hard to understand why a very late loss is called a miscarriage rather than a stillbirth. It is because, from a legal point of view, a baby is thought to have a good chance of surviving if they are born alive at 24 weeks.
This distinction can be upsetting for some women who have a late miscarriage because they may also give birth to their baby and, understandably, feel that it should be called a stillbirth.
If you’ve had a miscarriage, you can ask your employer for compassionate leave or try to agree a period of unpaid leave. If neither of these options are possible, you could try to take any annual leave that you can. Having the space and time to grieve is very important, if you need it.
If you need time off work after your miscarriage, this can be treated as pregnancy-related sickness. Talk to your doctor or GP. They can give you a sick note (also known as a fit note) that you can give to your employer.
Your employer must count any sick leave related to your pregnancy or miscarriage separately and must not use it against you, for example, for disciplinary or redundancy purposes. You are entitled to any sick pay that you would normally qualify for when off sick.
If you do not qualify for SSP, you may be able to claim Employment Support Allowance instead.
What are my rights around discrimination?
The Equality Act 2010 protects people against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or pregnancy-related sickness. It covers a period of 2 weeks from the end of a pregnancy for women who are not entitled to maternity leave.
- The Equality Act protects you during this period from being discriminated against for any sick leave you take because of a miscarriage.
- If you are discriminated against after this period, you can make a claim for sex discrimination. You will need to show that you have been treated less favourably than a man who has taken sick leave.
You should be protected against unfair treatment related to pregnancy throughout your employment, not just for a restricted period. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly because of your miscarriage or any sick leave you have taken, you should get advice as soon as possible. You can find more information on the Maternity Action website.
Coping emotionally with going back to work
It can take time to feel yourself again
Try to be kind to yourself and give yourself time to adjust to being back at work. Losing a baby is not something you can get over quickly and you may be feeling tired, exhausted and struggling to concentrate. All of these are feelings are normal and you should try to be patient with yourself while you recover.
Grief can come and go from day to day. You may feel fine one morning and very emotional the next. You should take time out when this happens and speak to your manager or HR department about anything that could help protect your wellbeing.
Try to identify any possible triggers that may affect you at work, for example if a colleague visits during their maternity leave. They may be things you can do to protect yourself from these situations or ways you can prepare, so you find them easier to manage.
Worrying about your colleagues’ reactions
It is natural be anxious about talking to your colleagues about what has happened. You may not feel able to answer questions or tell people yourself. If you prefer, you could ask your manager or HR department to tell people for you.
“When I went back to work, one of the hardest things (which I hadn’t expected) was dealing with people who didn’t know and thought I had been sick. They were kindly asking if I was feeling better and saying they were happy I was back, while I just felt sad that I had been off in the first place. I wish I’d asked my boss to tell people what really happened before I came back.”
Unfortunately, other people’s reactions to the news that you have lost your baby may not always be helpful. It can be difficult to understand how it feels to lose a baby if you have never had a miscarriage. Even if someone has lost a baby in the past, they may have reacted or coped differently.
It may help to talk to someone at work that you trust. If this isn’t possible or you don’t feel comfortable, talk to the people who can best support you outside of work. This may be your partner, a family member or friend.
Getting more support
If you feel you are not coping, no matter how long after the miscarriage, ask for help. You may need more support such as professional counselling. Some workplaces provide a free, confidential counselling service.
You can also talk to a Tommy’s midwife free of charge from 9am–5pm, Monday to Friday on 0800 0147 800 or you can email them at [email protected]s.org. Our midwives are trained in bereavement support.
There are also lots of organisations that can provide more advice and support about miscarriage.
Find out more about getting support after a miscarriage.