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Miscarriage should be recognised as a bereavement

Tuesday November 16th 2021

The UK should follow New Zealand's lead and recognise miscarriage in the first six months of pregnancy as a bereavement, not just as an illness, a psychiatrist argues today.

Dr Nathan Hodson, of Warwick Medical School, says while The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2020 allows for two weeks’ statutory bereavement leave for a stillbirth after 24 weeks and for the loss of a child up to the age of 18 in the UK, there are no equivalent rights for miscarriage before 24 weeks.

Instead, those who miscarry before 24 weeks are entitled to seven days of sick leave, after which a formal sick note from a doctor is needed.

In a letter to BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, Dr Hodson writes: “This policy creates an arbitrary cliff edge at 24 weeks.”

He acknowledges that it is not known how many miscarriages occur in the UK each year nor how much sick leave is taken for them, which potentially exposes private companies to unknown costs for employee miscarriage at any stage.

However, Dr Hodson introducing one week of statutory bereavement leave when miscarriage occurs after the 12-week scan would minimise costs because miscarriage risk after 12 weeks is less than 1%.

He said there should be sufficient data from New Zealand in the next couple of years to estimate the impact of the policy, which was introduced in March this year.

The policy there allows women and partners three days of paid leave at any point during a pregnancy but does not include abortions.

Dr Hodson writes that miscarriage should as far as possible be recognised as bereavement, not sickness, and many parents will need time off work afterwards.

“Leave following first-trimester miscarriage should be prioritised when New Zealand has published data,” he says.

“But whatever approach is taken with regard to early miscarriages, the cliff edge at 24 weeks is a stark injustice demanding remedy.”

Hodson N. Time to rethink miscarriage bereavement leave in the UK. BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health. November 2021. doi 10.1136/bmjsrh-2021-201282

[abstract]

Tags: Australia | Childbirth and Pregnancy | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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