Can lawyers ever get it right? Law firm, Kingsley Napley has formalised a policy that offers paid time off work to all staff affected by pregnancy loss. All employees and partners who lose a baby by miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy or neonatal loss will receive 10 days’ paid leave.
It sounds fair and generous, but there has been a mixed reaction to the announcement. Some critics have dismissed it as a publicity stunt, saying that any reasonable employer would offer paid leave to someone who had suffered a pregnancy loss, whether or not there was a formal policy in place.
Well, as a lawyer, I feel I should stick up for my fellow colleagues, so here are a few points in Kingsley Napley’s defence:
- There is no legal obligation to offer paid leave to parents who lose a baby before 24 weeks.
- Kingsley Nalpey are offering 10 days full pay, not just statutory sick pay. That’s more than fathers get if they take paternity leave.
- New Zealand announced bereavement leave for miscarriages back in March, but women and their partners will only be eligible for three days’ off.
- Kingsley Napley’s policy applies to both partners, not just the woman who suffered the loss.
- There is no need to certify the absence so neither partner will need to go to their GP to get a sick note
- Kinsley Napley already allows time off for pregnancy loss under their compassionate leave policy, but this formalises the process so all staff know where they stand and know they will be supported
- A policy raises awareness of the situation and helps to normalise taking time off in these circumstances. How many women keep quiet about miscarriage, take a day or two off and then soldier on?
We will all have our own views about this, but when around 250,000 pregnancies a year end in miscarriage, anything that makes life easier at such a difficult time is to be welcomed. Yes, lots of employers will offer paid time off without needing a policy to tell them to do it, but this sends a message that both women and men who are affected by pregnancy loss will be supported and that it is normal to need time off in these circumstances. No one needs to suffer in silence.
A top City law firm will offer paid leave to staff affected by the loss of a pregnancy, in what is thought to be a first for London’s legal sector.