Paid leave for pregnancy loss is a corporate social responsibility



The Editorial Board

Experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth is a devasting and mentally exhausting experience to undergo. In addition to the stress of coping with their loss, postpartum employees must figure out whether they should take time off work and for how long — a task that isn’t easy in the United States given that labor laws do not cover paid time off for pregnancy loss.

While it is evident that providing paid time off for pregnancy loss is costly, employers have a corporate social responsibility to uphold this right.

“People need time to grieve and heal to come to terms with this life-changing circumstance and be able to keep going,” Elissa Silverman, a Washington, D.C., council member, said, according to The Washington Post.

The idea of offering paid leave after a stillbirth is not a new concept. In March, a bill approving three days of paid leave after a miscarriage or stillborn birth passed in New Zealand, the second country to do this after India.

“The bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave,” Ginny Andersen, a parliament member, said according to Reuters.

In the United States, however, The Washington Post reported that the D.C. Council settled on a bill that would offer up to two weeks of unpaid leave to employees who lose a child under the age of 21, including stillbirths.

This ensures that employees will still be able to keep their job, but the financial stress of losing money still lingers.

In the case where a miscarriage results in significant health complications, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to care for their health.

New York’s paid family leave policy only offers paid family leave to bond with a newly born, adopted or fostered child; to care for a close relative with a serious health condition or to assist loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service — none of which covers stillborn births.

Not providing a paid option for pregnancy loss discriminates against low-income women in the workplace. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stillbirths commonly occur in those who are Black, 35 years old and older, have given birth to multiple children at once or who have high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.

While some options such as using sick days or vacation days may cover some expenses, it is preposterous that employees need to “take a vacation” during such a difficult time.

Women who have experienced a miscarriage are also more at risk for developing depression, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital of Mental Health.

The American Psychiatric Foundation states that depression “may also adversely impact multiple areas of employee performance, including focus and decision making, time management, completing physical tasks, social interactions, and communication.”

New York State legislation may not pressure employers to offer paid days off for pregnancy loss, but providing such benefits contributes to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace environment.