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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.