A recent Wall Street Journal article noted the increasing trend towards openness about pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and infertility in the workplace. Fortunately for women of child-bearing age and their families, these topics are becoming less taboo in the working world, in part because company insurance plans are changing to accommodate fertility treatments and more. While past generations of women feared losing their jobs if they got pregnant and possibly took extended maternity leave, some companies seem to have realized that allowing women to put their families first actually is good business, translating to increased employee satisfaction and greater loyalty to the company. One of the positive trends offered by some employers is job-protected pregnancy loss leave.
A February 2020 article at TODAY.com noted that unfortunately, while “[u]p to one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and 29% of women who miscarry experience PTSD, U.S. workplaces have not caught up with the growing recognition that miscarriage is a loss that takes time to mourn.” As a result, “women and men [who experience miscarriage] are burning sick days, taking unpaid leave and relying on the kindness of their supervisors to cope,” or are even “forced to put on a happy face and get back to work.”
One noticeable outlier is Reddit, which provides “eight and a half weeks of fully paid leave for anyone who goes through a pregnancy loss — father or mother,” according to TODAY.
Reddit’s Human Resources Director Chris Vanzetta commented, “We were discussing all the different things that life could throw at our employees, and then being really explicit about how Reddit will support them through those times. It’s really about building an inclusive environment where employees feel supported.” Vanzetta noted that offering paid pregnancy loss leave also helps Reddit attract new talent. “I would be lying if I said we are not in a very competitive landscape, and I think that is something that does differentiate us,” he said.
Another company providing paid leave for pregnancy loss is Lattice, a San Francisco startup that creates performance review software. Founder Jack Altman told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2019 that the company’s policy is meant to acknowledge the relatively unknown frequency of miscarriages, as well as the real grief associated with them. Altman himself knows firsthand what that loss looks like for a father, as his wife Julia experienced a miscarriage.
Lattice “offers five paid days of miscarriage leave, separate from sick days and bereavement leave” without requiring a doctor’s note, and if needed, a longer leave for the employee (male or female) would be given. Altman commented, “I think so much of what makes it difficult is that on Monday, you have to go to work and you can’t even talk about it.”
The San Francisco Chronicle article noted that, in contrast, companies like Yelp, Microsoft, Adobe, and Uber do not have specific policies for pregnancy loss but are willing to work with employees as needed utilizing sick days and bereavement leave.
A December 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review noted similarly that when it comes to stillbirth — loss of a pregnancy after 20 weeks gestation — there is “considerable variation by state and organization and no statutory Family and Medical Leave.” The article offered self-care strategies, tips for managers whose employees return to work after a pregnancy loss, and suggestions for compassionate coworkers unsure of how to help.
A common thread among employers offering leave for pregnancy loss is the understanding that women and men are grieving the loss of actual people — their preborn children. While our culture repeatedly uses dehumanizing language to create emotional distance from the horrific reality of abortion, the Harvard Business Review article said it all in its opening line: “Nothing is more full of life, potential, and possibility than the experience of expecting a child, of carrying new life and waiting to bring it into the world.”
As one mom told TODAY of her three miscarriages, “They are still my babies. Even though I didn’t get to hold them, or walk in the park with them, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. I have these angels that are watching over me.”
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