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OU research reveals inequalities in employment leave for Early Pregnancy Endings

  • At the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week, Open University (OU) researchers are calling for scrutiny of employment leave for early pregnancy endings.
  • They have found that parents facing an early end to pregnancy can be entitled to differing degrees of paid leave depending on where they live.
  • OU researchers also say that workplace policies primarily focusing on miscarriage can lead to stigma surrounding pregnancy endings, prompting a call for a more equitable approach based on physical recovery needs.

A ground-breaking research paper from The Open University (OU), the University of Plymouth, the University of Essex, and University College London has unveiled significant inequalities in the paid leave parents receive when facing an early end to pregnancies.

Depending on where individuals live, they can be entitled to differing degrees of paid leave. Researchers are calling for scrutiny of new employment leave policies, highlighting the need for fairer and more inclusive practises.

Their call comes on the back of a new research paper that brings to light inconsistencies in paid leave entitlements for parents experiencing pregnancy endings that do not result in a living infant, such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, molar pregnancies, and abortion.

Unprecedented research

This research is significant because it is, as far as we are aware, the first to analyse the different inclusions and exclusions generated by laws in England and Wales and around the world regarding paid employment leave and the status of the foetus or baby. We call upon policymakers to carefully evaluate the implications of new proposals regarding employment leave for pregnancy endings.”

Professor Jo Brewis
Professor of People and Organisations at the OU

We want to ensure that any new proposals do not lead to stigmatisation around pregnancy endings, and that employees receive equitable and individualised support that is tailored to their needs, regardless of the type of early pregnancy ending experienced.”

Dr Victoria Newton
Senior Research Fellow at the OU

While analysing their findings, the researchers were surprised by the wide range of categorisations in these laws, and the complex inclusions and exclusions this creates both between but also within legislatures.

Inconsistent global legislation

The limited types of employment leave currently available in England and Wales after the early end of a pregnancy are either sick leave, or, in some organisations, forms of bereavement leave. Both of these types of leave make assumptions about the nature of the pregnancy ending and what the experience has involved which may not be suitable.

’Sick leave’ assumes a pregnancy ending without a live birth to be an illness, and side-lines people who feel a baby was lost. ‘Bereavement leave’ side-lines the physical needs of the post-pregnant woman and may exclude some types of pregnancy ending or those who do not feel bereaved.”

Dr Aimee Middlemiss
University of Plymouth

Open Societal Challenges

The new research paper was co-written by Professor Jo Brewis and Dr Victoria Newton, from The Open University, in collaboration with Dr Aimee Middlemiss at the University of Plymouth, Professor Ilaria Boncori at the University of Essex, and Professor Julie Davies at University College London.

The paper is based on the Early pregnancy endings and the workplace project led by Professor Jo Brewis. The project is supported by the OU’s Open Societal Challenges Programme, which aims to tackle some of the most important societal challenges of our time through impact-driven research.

The Programme’s focus on the themes of Tackling Inequalities, Living Well and Sustainability aligns well with the OU’s mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

For more information on The Open University’s Open Societal Challenges Programme and the research conducted by Professor Jo Brewis and her team, please visit the OU’s Open Societal Challenges website.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this story help is available through Sands.


Picture credit: Shutterstock

This article was originally published on The OU news website; click to read the original article.

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