Belfast Council is to discuss becoming the first government body in Northern Ireland to give paid leave to employees who experience early pregnancy loss and miscarriage.
At the recent full council meeting (Thursday July 1st), Alliance councillor Michelle Kelly forwarded a motion calling upon the council to “recognise the emotional trauma and loss suffered by parents as a result of stillbirths and miscarriages”.
The motion adds: “The council also notes a growing number of employers across the UK and Republic of Ireland are offering paid leave to employees who have experienced or been affected by early pregnancy loss and miscarriage.
“As such, the council will bring forward compassionate, fair, and progressive proposals for bereavement leave to provide leave for miscarriage and for stillbirth so employees who have been impacted do not have to use sick or annual holiday leave.”
Councillor Kelly said: “The current harsh reality is that anyone impacted by the loss of a pregnancy under 24 weeks is not entitled to any protection at work under legislation, and therefore they have to take sick or annual leave.
“Considering over one in four pregnancies ends in loss, it means unfortunately many people are having to set aside that loss and just get on with their lives without taking part in the grieving process properly.
“It is important to remember that for many families, this loss is not a sickness, it is a bereavement, and there should be an opportunity for it to be recognised as such.”
She added: “Since raising this issue, I have received many messages which put into context what people are having to go through – for example, miscarrying in the toilets at work, and simply having to go back to the job. It is all too often swept under the carpet, and its impacts underestimated. It is 2021, and we need to do better.”
The Parental Bereavement Bill was introduced in the Assembly last month, which aims to bring statutory paid leave for those who have suffered the loss of a child under 18, or after 24 weeks of pregnancy. If passed, it would bring Northern Ireland into line with other parts of the UK.
Kellie Armstrong MLA is also bringing in a private members bill to extend paid leave to those who have suffered miscarriage prior to 24 weeks.
Councillor Kelly said: “In the meantime, a growing number of companies across the UK and the Republic of Ireland are announcing that they will provide paid leave for miscarriage.
“As a council, we can be doing more now to help. As one of Northern Ireland’s major employers, I hope this council will implement a compassionate bereavement policy to include this, and that others will follow suit.”
The motion was referred, without discussion, to the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.