co-op sign

Source: Co-op

The Co-op has launched a new policy to support colleagues through the bereavement and grief of a pregnancy loss.

The policy has been created in partnership with the Miscarriage Association, and has been made available to colleagues from today.

It aims to support both affected parents, whether it happens directly to them, their partner or their baby’s surrogate mother. It applies regardless of length of service or contracted hours and also of the stage of pregnancy.

Support offered includes: 

  • Flexible paid leave, tailored to best provide support for individual circumstances
  • To help open up conversations in the workplace, Co-op is equipping managers with a guide to provide appropriate practical and emotional support to those going through loss 
  • Paid leave for the partners of those who experience pregnancy loss, as well as colleagues who are intended parents and experience pregnancy loss with a surrogate
  • Time off for medical appointments, access to support and counselling for bereavement and grief through Lifeworks (a wellbeing app for Co-op colleagues) and also signposting to other organisations at the end of the policy to support specific types of pregnancy loss
  • Access to emergency leave for colleagues if a member of their family suffers a pregnancy loss
  • Access to GP support available to colleagues and their families 24 hours a day through Co-op’s Smart Health virtual service, providing psychologist-led mental health support, complex case support, second medical opinions and proactive health guidance

The Co-op said it hoped to help colleagues, members and communities break the taboo of pregnancy loss by providing support and encouraging more people to talk about the issue.

It is also aims to highlight pregnancy loss as an experience not isolated to women or heterosexual couples via the new policy.

“Losing a baby at any stage in a pregnancy is a devastating experience,” said Shirine Khoury-Haq, Co-op chief financial officer and CEO of Life Services. 

“The decision to discuss that with your employer is an incredibly difficult and personal one. Having lost our eldest daughter and having suffered several miscarriages myself and with our surrogate I understand just how difficult it is to navigate your personal and professional life during such heartbreak.

“By creating a supportive environment companies can go a long way in easing the stress that people in this situation often feel. I am very proud that the Co-op is recognising and supporting our colleagues at a time when they need it most.”

Caroline Nokes, MP and chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “It’s great to see the Co-op’s announcement place particular emphasis on the bereavement and grief of a pregnancy loss, rather than it being characterised as a ‘parental’ issue. This will ensure colleagues get the right level of support at a time when they most need it.

“By increasing understanding, changing attitudes and promoting compassion amongst its colleagues, Co-op is making that step-change needed to break the taboo. I hope more businesses follow suit and rise to the challenge to help both existing and future employees.”

Miscarriage Association national director Ruth Bender Atik said: “The Miscarriage Association is delighted to support Co-op’s dedicated pregnancy loss policy.

“It offers both practical and psychological support tailored to the diverse needs of colleagues and its detailed guidance is thoughtful and sensitive. Above all it acknowledges that pregnancy loss at any stage and under any circumstances can be a bereavement like any other.”

The policy is part of Co-op’s wider commitment to support bereaved parents. In 2019, the Co-op campaigned for the government to introduce the Children’s Funeral Fund, which helps bereaved parents pay for their child’s burial or cremation. 

In April 2020, Co-op also introduced four weeks’ fully paid leave to any colleague who loses a child under the age of 18. This extends its policy beyond Jack’s Law, which led to the mandatory introduction of two weeks’ leave on statutory pay.