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Pregnancy Loss

Government report recommends right to paid leave for pregnancy loss under 24 weeks

The report recommends this statutory right be introduced for pre-viability pregnancy loss, regardless of gestational stage or reason for the loss.

LAST UPDATE | 26 Jan

A GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONED report has recommended that a statutory right to paid leave should be introduced for pre-viability pregnancy loss under 24 weeks.

This would be regardless of the gestational stage or the reason for the loss, and it is further recommended that this be subject to medical certification.

The report, titled ‘PLACES: Pregnancy Loss (under 24 weeks) in Workplaces’, remarked that this would allow for a period of recovery, and show societal recognition of the impact of pre-viability pregnancy loss.

Pregnancy loss affects around one in four pregnancies, most often before 12 completed weeks of pregnancy.

In 2022, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability Integration and Youth commissioned University College Cork to undertake research with the aim of guiding the Department on how best to support those who experience a pregnancy loss before 24 weeks gestation while in employment.

The report contains a survey with close to 1,000 people who have experienced pregnancy loss, in addition to information on legal standards and good practices from other jurisdictions.

It’s also been recommended that “any leave introduced should be of sufficient duration to meet the needs of those affected” and that it will have to be “considered in the context of existing statutory paid leave provision”.

Current statutory paid sick leave is three days, and this will be to be increased to 10 days by 2026.

Meanwhile, women in Ireland are entitled to maternity leave of six months if they experience a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

However, there is no statutory leave entitlement for pregnancy loss before this time.

The report also recommends that a statutory right to paid leave for pregnancy loss should be introduced for partners.

This would enable them to “process their own loss and to support their partner (including the care of any children)”.

‘Sensitivity’

Elsewhere, the report notes that the implementation of leave entitlements should be “carefully considered by workplaces” and that procedures on notification, submitting certification, and requesting leave should be “developed with sensitivity”.

“This includes considering the need for privacy and compassion, as well as allowing reasonable time to notify the employer,” states the report.

In addition to a survey with close to 1,000 people, 13 people took part in interviews about their workplace experiences and views on potential supports.

In some cases in order to access leave, participants in this interview study said they had to inform their workplace “within a very short period after the loss” and that the conversations which took place as a result were “extremely difficult at an already highly emotional and distressing time”.

Participants added that while statutory leave for pregnancy loss could have a specific name such as pregnancy loss leave, it could also be included in other broader leave entitlements such as compassionate leave to protect privacy.

Another recommendation from the report was the need for any changes around leave and support entitlements for pre-viability pregnancy loss to be “clear, publicly available and accessible”.

The report added that “political leadership is needed to drive changes in public awareness and perceptions surrounding pregnancy loss”.

Commenting on the report, Minister Roderic O’Gorman described it as a “vital piece of research”.

He added that the “research project is very informative and will assist the creation and implementation of policy in this area”.

Labour Bill

Just over a week ago, the Government delayed a proposal by the Labour Party that would entitle women who experienced a miscarriage to additional leave.

However, Cabinet yesterday said that while the Government supports the motivation behind this Bill, a 12-month delay will be used to give sufficient time for further consideration.

It pointed to today’s report on pregnancy loss under 24 weeks in workplaces as an example of the “significant” work that has already been undertaken in this regard.

Labour Senator Marie Sherlock today commended the authors of the report and said it “provides a strong argument for the introduction of more compassionate workplace policies for those struggling with their fertility and pregnancy losses”. 

But she added that it is “deeply disappointing that the government chose to bury the Labour Party’s Bill to achieve just that”. 

“What is even more frustrating for us, and the thousands of women and couples across the country who could be helped by our bill, is that the government was already in possession of this report at the time that it decided to further delay our proposal,” said Sherlock. 

“Despite expressing support for the Bill, they have chosen to kick the can down the road. 

“The government’s choice to defer addressing this critical issue suggests a lack of commitment to the wellbeing of citizens facing reproductive challenges.

“It is imperative that we move beyond political manoeuvring and prioritise the needs of those who have been waiting for essential support for far too long.”

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