Supporting women after stillbirth

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2019 National Women's Conference
25 October 2018

Conference is aware that a stillborn baby is one who has died before or during birth and at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Unfortunately; this is not a rare tragedy as around 15 babies die before, during or soon after birth every day in the UK. Sadly, this equates to 1 in 225 babies each year, yet there is little spoken of this tragedy and of the mothers’ maternity rights in these circumstances.

Conference notes that after stillbirth, employees who have given the correct notice are entitled to 52 weeks’ Maternity Leave. They may also be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA) depending on their level of earnings. However this information is not widely available and both employers and employees may not be aware of these rights.

It is also estimated that 4.2 million women in the UK are living with depression associated with stillbirth and that this will have an impact on their mental health within the workplace. Further, Conference is aware that with the decline in Mental Health Services, women are often unable to access the right services at the right time.

Conference is aware that it can be difficult for a woman to think about practicalities and finances after their baby has died, however knowing about their entitlement in these circumstances would allow more quiet time to grieve before returning to work.

Conference welcomes the UNISON guidance ‘Pregnancy, Your Rights at Work’, however we note that there is no mention of the rights of a mother who has had a stillbirth. We would also welcome further guidance and support for UNISON Branch Women Officers and Welfare Officers so they understand the issues and know where to signpost mothers for help and support.

Therefore; Conference calls upon the National Women’s Committee to:

• Review and update the UNISON guidance ‘Pregnancy Your Rights at Work’ to ensure women members know what they are entitled to if they have a stillbirth and to signpost them to the relevant and appropriate stillbirth Charities.

• Provide information and guidance to Women and Welfare Officers to enable appropriate support for women members in the workplace who have experienced a stillbirth.

• Encourage regions and branches to negotiate improvements in workplace maternity policies, which include the rights of women who have a stillbirth and to signpost employers to guidance produced by relevant and appropriate Stillbirth Charities and to;

• Lobby politicians to improve bereavement care and mental health services for women who have experienced Stillbirth.

• Report back to Conference 2020