A few weeks ago we became the first Trust in our NHS to offer a unique package of support for staff who experience baby loss, which includes periods of paid leave, as well as for colleagues who have a baby born prematurely.
We proudly took the step as we look to lead from the front on this important issue in a bid to break the taboo that exists in our society. The response since we made the announcement has been overwhelmingly positive and we have been inundated with requests from other organisations, from within the NHS, along with others in the public and private sectors, interested in following suit. Raffaela Goodby, our Chief People Officer, also recently took part in a roundtable discussion with businesses across the region, hosted by Insider Magazine, discussing this topic and how they could potentially offer such a package for their staff.
She said: “We’ve made a clear statement when it comes to taking the lead on this hugely important issue. Our colleagues have responded positively as the approach reflects our Trust values and spirit. If we, as an organisation that specialise in the care of families who lose their babies, can’t make this change and start conversations, then who can?
“The response since we launched the policy in early July has been amazing. The phone started ringing and emails came into my inbox almost immediately from organisations and business across the UK, of all sizes and from NHS, police, government organisations and private companies.
“It’s been our pleasure to offer as much guidance and support as we possibly can to help change things for the better for families everywhere and, most importantly, break the taboo about miscarriage, abortion and IVF that still sadly exists. We remain happy to coach and support others. Please do just get in touch.”
The package of support for the 6,500 staff at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s who experience any form of pregnancy loss includes:
Up to 10 days paid leave for the woman who was pregnant and up to five days paid leave for their partner. This includes, but is not limited to, miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy and neonatal loss. This is not dependent upon gestation of pregnancy or length of service.
In addition, staff are offered paid time off for appointments linked to pregnancy loss, for example, medical examinations, scans and tests and mental health-related interventions, if this stretches beyond the time outlined above.
A promise that all requests to work flexibly following a bereavement will also be treated with understanding and sensitivity. At the same time the Trust also announced it has signed up to the Smallest Things ‘Employer with Heart’ Charter to offer staff whose baby is born prematurely additional support. This aspect of the new policy includes:
Extended leave at full pay until the estimated date of when Maternity Leave was due to commence and two weeks paid leave for partners of premature babies, allowing paternity leave to be taken later.
Support when returning to work following the birth of a premature baby with consideration given to flexible working arrangements.
Midwife, Faye Sayers, experienced the devastation of baby loss after her child, Douglas, was still born in 2018. Her second child, Leonard, was born earlier this year at 32 weeks and received care at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Faye, Community Team Sister, bravely shared her story to help others. She said: “I think this new policy will be incredible for women, families and other children to be able to have the time to be a family and process everything that’s going on at such a difficult time.
“Baby loss is still a taboo. The more conversations that happen can offer more insight and understanding into this really important issue. It’s possible to overcome. It’s not easy but it’s possible to overcome.”
You can watch to Faye's powerful full interview on the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s YouTube channel.
Each year staff at Birmingham Women’s Hospital support around 2,000 families who experience pregnancy loss. Fundraising continues for Woodland House - a new, purpose-built bereavement centre away from the hustle and bustle of the main Women’s Hospital site, where grieving families can spend time together in safe, secure and serene surroundings before they feel ready to face the world again.
Funded entirely by charitable donations, Woodland House will be the first of its kind in the UK and set a new national standard of care for pregnancy loss and neonatal death. Thanks to the generosity of its charity supporters it’s now just £1million away from becoming a reality.
Find out more about the project on the Women’s Hospital Charity website.