Glasgow council set to bring in miscarriage leave

Women employed by Glasgow City Council who experience a miscarriage could benefit from paid leave if councillors agree to extend existing bereavement provision this week.

The local authority is about the become the third council in the country to sign onto the Miscarriage Association’s Workplace pregnancy loss pledge by allowing employees who experience a miscarriage before 24 weeks time off.

According to a report being brought before the well-being and empowerment committee this Thursday, miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss and impacts one in four known pregnancies.

In the UK a miscarriage is legally defined as the loss of a baby up to 23 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, and a stillbirth refers to the loss of a baby from 24 weeks. While stillbirth is less common, it still affects around one in 200 pregnancies.

Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council.

Under current UK legislation, employees who experience stillbirth are entitled to two weeks statutory parental bereavement leave. They are also entitled to maternity or paternity leave in addition to any Shared Parental Leave planned prior to their loss.

But women who lose their baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy are not afforded these provisions. Instead, they must rely on annual leave, sick leave, or unpaid leave if they feel unable to return to work after their loss.

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A report being presented to members states that the loss of a baby can trigger trauma and lead to mental health issues.

It reads: “The loss of a baby at any stage of pregnancy can be a major source of grief and trauma and can have a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of women and their partners.

“A recent study on the mental health impact of miscarriage published in the Lancet Public Health Journal found that the incidence of miscarriage quadrupled the risk of suicide and doubled the rate of depression for both women and men.

“It is therefore critical that employees are fully supported through this personal life event. Their loss should be acknowledged, and they should get time to grieve so that they can start to process the miscarriage without worrying about their finances and employment.”

The Scottish Government has committed to introduce three days of paid miscarriage leave within the public sector, however employment law powers to introduce this in the private sector and across the UK remain reserved to Westminster.

A Private Members Bill calling on the UK Government to introduce at least three days of paid miscarriage leave recently passed its second reading at the House of Commons.

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Employers are now being urged to sign up to the Miscarriage Association’s Workplace Pregnancy Loss Pledge, where they can demonstrate their commitment to support employees following a miscarriage.

This includes affording them appropriate time off to grieve, and a supportive work environment conducive to recovery.

So far 120 organisations have signed up so far including two Scottish local authorities, namely Fife Council and West Dunbartonshire Council.

By signing onto the pledge, the council hopes to demonstrate its commitment to supporting the health and well-being of its staff.

The report will be discussed in full this Thursday afternoon.