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Civil Service

Miscarriage: Civil Service helps to break the silence

image of holding hands to reflect miscarriage

In Baby Loss Awareness Week, Angela MacDonald, Second Permanent Secretary at HM Revenue & Customs, welcomes new guidance to offer support for Civil Service parents experiencing a miscarriage.

Sadly, miscarriage affects a lot of parents - one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And yet, it’s a subject that may be shared in hushed tones and shrouded in awkwardness  or self-blame. It will have happened to some of our colleagues, but we may never know about it.

It’s important we recognise and support our colleagues across the Civil Service who have been affected by a miscarriage. This is why, during Baby Loss Awareness Week, I am pleased to announce the new model miscarriage guidance we have made available to departments.

Ribbons to reflect Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), pregnancy Loss on helping hand

This guidance sets out the support available to employees who have been affected by a miscarriage. This includes counselling and advice from Employee Assistance Programmes, sick and special leave, flexible working hours and arrangements for supporting partners. The guidance also provides advice to managers to enable them to help their team member during this very difficult time.

We have developed the model miscarriage guidance in consultation with the Cross-Government Pregnancy Loss Employee Network. Their lived experience has helped shape the guidance and I wish to thank them for sharing their time and experiences.

The Women’s Health Strategy sets out the ambition of tackling taboos in the workplace, such as miscarriage. I hope the new guidance sends out a clear message that you are not alone and we are here to support you.

If you have been affected by a miscarriage, please speak to your manager. Your department will also have other support available, such as their Employee Assistance Programme, and may have an Employee Network that you can reach out to for support. Your manager will be able to help you with this as well.

Working together, we can break the silence on miscarriage in the Civil Service.

Want to find out more? Civil servants can contact

I am grateful to Mike for sharing his story.

Mike Warner, a member of the Cross-Government Pregnancy Loss Employee Network, shares his lived experience of miscarriage which some readers may find upsetting.

Mike Warner, member of the cross government pregnancy loss employee network
Mike Warner, member of the cross government pregnancy loss employee network

Our daughter was born healthy at 31 weeks in 2015, spending seven weeks in Neonatal Intensive Care. However, since then, we have suffered three miscarriages: one ‘chemical pregnancy’, one late-stage loss at 18 weeks named Daniel, and one termination on medical advice at 10 weeks. Fortunately, last year, my son, Noah, was born healthy following a long and complex pregnancy. Of course, not everyone gets their ‘happily ever after’, and for that, you truly have my condolences.

In the case of Daniel, my wife suffered a huge haemorrhage at work. She called me, very casually, and said she had to nip to the hospital for a check-up, which wasn’t unusual for our situation. When I got to the hospital, the nurse thought I knew what was going on and rushed me into a room. I later learnt it was called a bereavement suite. The image of my wife in pain and the sudden realisation of what had happened haunted me for several months and the shock was traumatising. That night was the loneliest, darkest and saddest of my life.

During these life-changing experiences, I have benefited from empathetic and compassionate managers who have provided great support during the loss, the return to work and the anxiety of the pregnancy with Noah.

However, it’s not always clear what support is available or what your options are. It is my hope that this model miscarriage guidance is adopted across the Civil Service to provide consistent clarity and support to colleagues at their time of need.

I wish to thank Civil Service HR for respecting the value of lived experience and taking such a collaborative approach in developing this guidance with me and colleagues from Department for the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Department for Transport and the Foreign Office.

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  1. Comment by Melody Bland posted on

    I am so sorry for your heartbreak Mike but also impressed by yours and your wife's courage in keep trying again, I am so glad you now have Noah and I'm sure he has been worth all the heartache.
    My son Khardan will be 29 this year but has had everyone of those birthdays in heaven. I have celebrated them here on earth with my own little ritual for the day and I think about (and talk about) him often.
    I cannot promise that your heartache will go away but it does get easier to deal with.
    I am so glad that miscarriage and baby loss are becoming less of a taboo topic as being unable to discuss your losses makes it so much harder.
    My sympathies to everybody who has experienced this loss.💙

  2. Comment by Abbie McKenzie posted on

    The introduction of this guidance sounds like a fantastic development. Where can we view it?

    • Replies to Abbie McKenzie>

      Comment by Richard Boyd posted on

      Your HR team should have been sent it via CSHR. If they have not had it or you need a copy please contact me on the above email address in the blog.

  3. Comment by Angela Davies posted on

    Thank you for sharing your story. I suffered 3 miscarriages during summer 2005 & autumn 2006 all were at the 7/8 week stage of pregnancy. I kept blaming myself thinking I was doing some wrong which were causing the miscarriages. I was referred to a councillor which helped and was lucky to have a supportive husband and line manager. After a number of hospital appointments and unable to find any answers my husband I decided to pursue adoption. We became proud adoptive parents in 2010 to an 18 month old girl.

  4. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    May I commend you Mike for sharing your personal story. I am really sorry for your loss.

    Whilst I have not had personal experience of the loss on an unborn child, I am conscious of the impact this through a conversation with a colleague who went on to reveal their personal circumstances to their Team through the publication of a blog.

    I would certainly agree that there does not currently appear to be any consistency in the level of support being offered to colleagues apart from the EAP programme.

    From my perspective, more needs to be done to educate and increase awareness and understanding about the impact this can have on those concerned, and the benefits of being compassionate and empathetic.

    As usual, I shall be joining the Wave of Light @ 7pm on Sunday 15th October, and light a candle in memory of the little angels who have gone, but who are not forgotten.

  5. Comment by Gemma Ball posted on

    Such an emotive topic, huge thank you to everyone involved and sharing. There is a Baby Loss Awareness support network within HMRC, you can contact myself for any further information and also join our Yammer page. Heart warming to see more comms on this topic and together we can help to break the silence.

    • Replies to Gemma Ball>

      Comment by Richard Boyd posted on

      Hi Gemma, be good to get in touch when you are next available! My email is in the article.

  6. Comment by Terry Hegarty posted on

    Mike thank you for having the courage to share your experiences. I've only had experience of miscarriage through wider family, and there is no easy way to ask questions or know what to offer by way of help.