Baby loss at any stage of a pregnancy or the first weeks of life is devastating and can have a far wider impact, not just on the mother. Sadly though, an estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage1 and eight babies are stillborn every day.2
Recognising this and dedicated to bringing bereaved parents, their families and friends together to commemorate their babies; Baby Loss Awareness Week starts on October 9th and runs through to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on October 15th.
On that day, the world unites across time zones in a ‘Wave of Light’, lighting candles and other illuminations at 7pm local time. These lights burn for an hour before the torch is passed to the next time zone in a glittering global wave of remembrance for babies lost and of solidarity with those who grieve them.
This grief can manifest itself in different ways, making it virtually impossible to understand how a person who has suffered this type of loss will feel — whether they’re at home or in the workplace.
Yet providing support for a grieving colleague can be difficult. It’s common for people to wonder “Will I say the wrong thing?”, “What if I cause more upset?” or “How do I approach the topic of them coming back to work?”. Moreover, the employee themselves may find it tough to reach out for support, especially to their employer.
With this in mind, Unum offers a five-step guide for employers, and signposting to support for employees who have experienced the loss of a baby.
- First and foremostly, offer your condolences — but don’t bombard them with phone calls or emails. Simply let them know that you are there when they are ready. Each individual is different; some may want to get back to work and keep busy while others may need more time to process their emotions, whether that’s on compassionate or sick leave.
- Signpost employees to available resources and support services such as UK charities and organisations that support anyone affected by the death of a baby, including Sands, Tommy’s and The Miscarriage Association.
- Take the time to listen and be flexible with their needs with regards to coming back to work. Child Bereavement UK has great resources on how you can help someone who has returned to work after the loss of their child. By providing a safe and sympathetic environment during such a difficult time, you’re not only providing a grieving parent with the support they deserve but you’re also showing your workplace is somewhere that cares about its employees and an organisation that everyone should be proud to work for.
- Remember, the full impact of a bereavement may not be felt for some time after the death. Grief can also crop up around family milestones such as birthdays, seasonal holidays or anniversaries, so remain conscious of these events and remain compassionate.
- Ensure that you have a bereavement policy in place which fully meets grieving employees’ needs. This should ideally cover entitlement to leave (immediate and longer term), returning to work, supporting grieving colleagues, health and safety, culture and diversity and suggest where to find available support, such as an employee assistance programme (EAP). It’s also important to be aware of the legal requirements, like parental bereavement leave and pay, for employees who have lost their children.
Unum, in partnership with Child Bereavement UK, has produced a bereavement guide to help navigate through the complex grieving process, while line managers can complete our online bereavement workshop in association with St Catherine’s Hospice.