Clarify policies for parental leave after a stillbirth, employers asked

by Adelle Chua26 Oct 2017
Businesses should offer paid parental leave to employees who have lost a child to stillbirth, an Australian foundation said.

Stillbirth Foundation General Manager Victoria Bowring said employers should review their corporate policies to send the message that they recognise all births, including stillbirths.

Six babies are stillborn every day in Australia. “It’s far too common,” she said.

Despite the common occurrence, however, employer-funded parental leave policies are not clear about the support they offer to parents of a stillborn child.

“In addition to the grief of organising a funeral instead of a nursery, if you have a stillbirth, you also get the normal postpartum and other physical symptoms of birth – milk coming and drying up, bleeding, soreness and depression,” Bowring said.

All these need to be recognised in parental leave policies of businesses, she said, given that they are often written in the sole context of caring for a baby.

“Some managers might interpret paid leave as not applicable to stillbirth despite best intentions of the employer,” Bowring said. “This ambiguity needs to be removed.”

The foundation said that having clear policies means that the employer recognises stillbirth as a social issue.

“A parent is legally required to register the birth of a stillborn baby and yet also has to contend with organising a funeral for their own child, a burden that no parent should face,” said Bowring.

Some parents, however, may want to get out of the house and get back to work at once – there should also be a policy for this.

“This is about making it clear to everyone that it is the parent’s choice, not anyone else’s, as to when they are ready to return to work,” Bowring said.

“Support is needed more than ever after a stillbirth.”

Bowring said the move would also bring employer-funded paid parental leave in line with the government-funded paid parental leave schemes.

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  • by Nathalie Lynton - Shared and Halved Consulting 27/10/2017 12:34:47 AM

    Thank you for writing this very important piece. This definitely needs to be recognised, talked about and employees supported.

    It's a difficult conversation to have, but is needed for mothers and fathers of stillborns and their employers.

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