Channel 4 has announced a new pregnancy loss policy which aims to support those who suffer the loss of a baby, offering paid leave and a variety of medical support resources.
But what does this new policy involve, why has it been introduced and could other companies look at implementing something similar?
Channel 4’s new policy is believed to be the world’s first and intends to support both men and women affected by pregnancy loss.
The policy will also support people “whether it happens directly to them, their partner or their baby’s surrogate mother, regardless of the nature of their loss, and whatever their length of service.”
In an important move, the policy also recognises that pregnancy loss can be an experience not isolated to women or heterosexual couples.
After consulting several charities on the policy, it was decided that it will include two weeks leave on full-pay, paid leave for medical appointments, flexible working, and a variety of resources including medical support, counselling, and a buddying scheme to support those returning to work after a loss.
What is the current entitlement for leave from work after the loss of a baby?
Currently in the UK, the entitlement to paid leave from work depends at what stage of pregnancy a woman loses their baby.
Employment law and HR service provider Peninsula said that “if a child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy, the mother will still be entitled to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and pay”.
However, they need to have worked 26 weeks of service by the end of the 15th week before the due date in order to qualify for statutory maternity pay.
Partners still get up to two weeks leave and pay if they would otherwise have qualified, but again, they will need to have worked 26 weeks service by the end of the 15th week before the due date in order to take paternity leave and get paternity pay.
Women and their partners will also both be able to take parental bereavement leave - which is two weeks of leave to be taken within 56 weeks of the miscarriage. No length of service is needed to be able to take this and is in addition to maternity and paternity leave.
Parental bereavement leave after 24 weeks of pregnancy will be paid if a person meets “certain qualifying criteria, including having 26 weeks of service at the time of the miscarriage,” Peninsula adds.
However, if a miscarriage takes place before 24 weeks of pregnancy, then “there are no entitlements to leave, so the employee is likely to take sickness absence and be paid in line with the business’ sick pay arrangements, which must be at least statutory sick pay (SSP) where the employee qualifies,” explains Peninsula.
Channel 4’s new policy means that regardless of the nature of their loss and whatever their length of service, employees will be entitled to all of the offered support, including two weeks of leave on full-pay,
Channel 4’s Chief Executive, Alex Mahon, said: “At Channel 4 we recognise that the loss of a pregnancy, no matter the circumstances, can be a form of grief that can have a lasting emotional and physical impact on the lives of many women and their partners.
“Our dedicated policy by 4Women will help confront a subject that remains taboo whilst providing Channel 4’s employees with vital tools and support.”
‘We hope that by giving away this pioneering policy we’re able to encourage other organisations to do the same’
Channel 4 is also offering for other companies to use the same policy, as a way for employers to offer the same support to their employees following a pregnancy loss.
The company said it is publicly publishing this policy with the aim of making it easier for other organisations to “take it and make their own.”
Ms Mahon said: “We hope that by giving away this pioneering policy we’re able to encourage other organisations to do the same.”
Other companies following suit and implementing something similar to Channel 4’s new policy is an initiative which The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust welcomes.
The charity said: “There can be a lot to navigate physically and mentally on returning to the workplace after pregnancy loss.
“A pregnancy loss policy can help to create a supportive environment about a difficult subject.”
The charity also said that a pregnancy loss policy can allow both employers and employees to talk about loss so that “it is not a hidden subject,” and “sends the powerful message that supporting those who experience loss matters.”
“Channel 4's policy supports anyone who suffers pregnancy loss and we welcome this initiative and hope more organisations will follow,” adds the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust.
Kate Palmer, HR Advice Director at Peninsula, said: “This policy would certainly seem to go much further than the statutory right to take Parental Bereavement leave permits and, indeed, is likely to be very well received by Channel Four employees.
"Although taking the steps outlined here outside of the provision of statutory leave is not a lawful requirement, employers should not lose sight of how this could help them manage a very difficult situation by offering clear support to staff at a vulnerable time.”
However, Ms Palmer added that although “some companies may choose to introduce policies of this nature,” it “does remain to be seen how far this would stretch, especially with the continued uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.”