09 October 2019 - Post by:Robbie Sinclair
Baby Loss Awareness Week starts today – a time for bereaved parents to commemorate their babies lives, however short, and for those who have not experienced it to try to understand what it means to lose a baby. As someone who has been through the loss myself, it is a period of utter devastation and endless pain that is hard to articulate. One day everything is fine and the next your world falls apart. Nobody knows what to say to you because it is too delicate, too sensitive, too raw.
How those you know react can help on the journey, and this is where employers can really make a difference. Everyone responds to grief in their own way but having a supportive employer who gives you the time and space to do it your way is incredibly helpful. For me, this involved the partners stepping in on my matters and giving me the time away from work to focus on my family – and that meant a lot. One of the most difficult steps was returning to work and worrying about my colleagues not knowing what to say or do, or having to relive the experience with every conversation I had, or not being able to focus and perform as I usually could. Again, the partners I work with really helped – with my consent, they briefed the team in advance as to what had happened and how I wanted to address things when I returned. I also met up with one outside the office on the first day back. All this helped in reintegrating back into work and trying to find my “new normal”.
There are so many proactive simple steps employers can take which make a huge difference and it’s good to see that this is an area where legislation will soon come into play – the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act 2018 which came into force last year (but still requires regulations to be put in place before rights are available) will in due course entitle employees to take at least two week’s leave for the death of a baby. The rate of pay is still to be determined by regulations but is likely to be paid at the statutory rate of a week’s pay (currently £148.68).
There is help out there from charities such as Sands, who have a produced a booklet on information for employers to help a bereaved parent return to work and who are soon to roll out consultancy services for employers to help them support bereaved parents. The more awareness we have of these sorts of issues, the less scary they can be for those living them.