Baby Loss Policies – The bare minimum should be a floor not a ceiling

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2024 National Women's Conference
12 October 2023
Carried as Amended

Please note, in this context, when we refer to Women, the term encompasses women and pregnant people.

Conference notes that there is currently a disparity around attendance management policies for pregnancy losses of less than 24 weeks gestation when compared to pregnancy related illness in an ongoing pregnancy. Our members can unfairly fall through the cracks of these policies following a pregnancy loss, whether through miscarriage, termination of pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, or during IVF.

In some maternity policies, it can state that employees who suffer a miscarriage are subject to normal attendance management policies rather than exempted as with other pregnancy related issues.

Women absent suffering from pregnancy complications such as morning sickness for example will not trigger the attendance policy as this is protected by legislation but one who is absent following the loss of her baby will.

Conference, this disparity is very unfair.

In some policies there seems to be no provision at all for women absent after undergoing a termination of pregnancy, although those undergoing fertility treatment do get some special consideration as time off related to implantation of a fertilised ovum is also not counted towards attendance management triggers.

Conference, pregnancy loss can be devastating to women both emotionally and physically. We believe that by talking about baby loss openly and honestly, we can help each other feel less alone.

Conference notes that there should be clarity across all public sector workers around pregnancy loss to protect our members from this disparity and potential discrimination:

UNISON’s model policy is the gold standard, with provisions for paid time off for partners and the pregnant person following a lost pregnancy. In the Government response to the Independent Pregnancy Loss Review July 2023, it sets out that the NHS should be a “leading example” in offering excellent bereavement support and leave to staff and recommend up to 10 days paid leave for the pregnant person, and 5 days for the partner for any pre-24-week pregnancy loss. It also clearly states that this should be ‘floor not a ceiling’ so we should be encouraging compassionate care rather than the bare minimum legally required.

We call on the National Women’s Committee to:

1)Work with the NEC and all the relevant structures in our union to map current policy with a view of implementing UNISON’s model policy across all service groups through local agreements and staff sides.

2)Work with the NEC and all relevant structures in our union, including Labour Link to promote this issue for our members, to ensure all our members are protected by appropriate, sensitive, and fair workplace policies during this distressing time, without differentiating between miscarriage and other types of pregnancy loss such as termination of pregnancy.


The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that sickness absence related to a miscarriage should be treated in the same way as pregnancy related sickness.

The Equality Act Section 18: a person discriminates against a woman if they treat them unfavourably because of the pregnancy or because of illness suffered by them as a result of it.