More and more employers are rethinking their approach to bereavement care, thanks to a growing recognition of the emotional, mental, and financial toll of loss.
Saying goodbye to a member of your family or close-knit community is a major life event—as is welcoming a new family member—and benefits packages are increasingly reflecting this fact.
Unfortunately, within both of those life events is an experience that is sometimes overlooked: miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
As employers create benefits to address employee well-being in a holistic way, it is crucial to include this very common type of loss in any plan.
Lack of community support for parents
Parents who are grieving the loss of a pregnancy often have a tiny circle of close friends or relatives who are aware of the situation because of cultural taboos and secrecy around the topic of miscarriage. Some parents simply suffer in silence.
With other losses—whether families are mourning a grandmother, an uncle, or a young child—a funeral is held. This gives relatives and the larger community the chance to gather around the bereaved family to lift them up and give them help.
Silence on the subject does not do anything to ease the real effects on the family—and the struggles they face at home and at work.
With pregnancy loss, there are no similar cultural traditions. The practice of waiting to announce a pregnancy until the 12th week of pregnancy only reinforces the tendency toward silence on the subject.
However, keeping a lid on the information does not do anything to ease the real effects on the family—and the struggles they face at home and at work.
Physical and mental strain
In addition to the physical challenges of pregnancy, and pregnancy loss, the experience has a significant effect on mental health.
According to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 29% of women experience post-traumatic stress, with 24% and 11% reporting anxiety and moderate to severe depression, respectively, in the month after a pregnancy loss.
Nine months after a miscarriage, 16% were still experiencing posttraumatic stress, 17% reporting anxiety, and 5% depression.
Bereaved parents, no matter how conscientious and diligent they are in their work, are bringing these issues to the workplace. Without care and support, this can lead to lack of focus, productivity issues, and morale problems. As they struggle, their feelings of isolation and disconnection only increase.
Offering meaningful support
Miscarriage is one of the most common forms of loss a family will experience, and the same family may go through it multiple times—making it one of the most important areas employers can improve in order to boost employee well-being.
By creating a bereavement care policy that addresses miscarriage, an employer goes a long way toward creating a culture of care, and a company that is resilient.
There is already significant interest among employers to address bereavement. In fact, a recent Marsh McLennan Agency survey showed that 35% of the largest employers in the U.S. have expanded bereavement benefits in the past year or considering doing so in the next.
The most effective policies think beyond just days off, offering flexibility and customization as much as possible.
For instance, an employee with sleep disruptions (an issue for 76% of bereaved employees, Empathy's 2023 Cost of Dying Report showed) may benefit from working from home as needed, or tackling their work during different hours. Others may need a reduced schedule as they transition back to the office—already a common benefit for new parents caring for a newborn.
In addition, curating resources for employees—such as mental health providers, support groups, and professionals who can take over home duties like child care and cleaning temporarily—can get them the help they need quickly.
Miscarriage and pregnancy loss historically has been underestimated, creating a major hardship for parents in the workplace. By giving parents who are in despair the time and space to process their pain and confusion, employers show that they understand the magnitude of this loss and they care about their employees' long-term future.
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