Co-op launches pregnancy loss policy to support colleagues through bereavement and grief

25 June 2021

  • Dedicated policy supports both individuals and their partners who have been affected by pregnancy loss, as well those who lose a baby through a surrogate
  • Insight from Co-op’s 63,000 colleagues showed it needed to go further, building on existing support for colleagues whilst acknowledging pregnancy loss as a bereavement and not as sickness
  • Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP and Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee commends Co-op’s emphasis on the bereavement and grief of a pregnancy loss, rather than it being characterised as a ‘parental’ issue

Co-op has today (Friday 25th June) announced the launch of its dedicated pregnancy loss policy, created to support colleagues through the bereavement and grief of a pregnancy loss – which includes, but is not limited to, miscarriage, stillbirth, embryo transfer loss, molar pregnancy and termination of pregnancy (for any reason).

The policy, part of Co-op’s drive to create a truly inclusive workplace and deliver a fairer world for colleagues, supports both parents who have been affected - whether it happens directly to them, their partner or their baby’s surrogate mother, regardless of the nature of their loss, stage of the pregnancy and whatever their length of service or contracted hours. More than one in five* pregnancies end in miscarriage – around a quarter of a million in the UK each year.

Created in partnership with the Miscarriage Association, the policy includes a range of flexible support, including:

  • Flexible paid leave, tailored to best provide support for individual circumstances
  • To help open up conversations in the workplace, Co-op is equipping managers with a guide to provide appropriate practical and emotional support to those going through loss. In addition to sharing a range of resources from charities and support groups to help colleagues and their families
  • Paid leave for the partners of those who experience pregnancy loss, as well as colleagues who are intended parents and experience pregnancy loss with a surrogate, to ensure all those affected are supported
  • Time off for medical appointments, access to support and counselling for bereavement and grief through Lifeworks (a wellbeing app for Co-op colleagues) and also signposting to other organisations at the end of the policy to support specific types of pregnancy loss
  • Access to emergency leave for colleagues if a member of their family suffers a pregnancy loss
  • Access to GP support available to colleagues and their families 24 hours a day through Co-op’s Smart Health virtual service, providing psychologist-led mental health support, complex case support, second medical opinions and proactive health guidance

Co-op is making the policy publicly available today to help colleagues, members and communities to break the taboo of pregnancy loss by providing support and encouraging more people to talk about the issue. It’s also highlighting that pregnancy loss is an experience that is not isolated to women or heterosexual couples through the inclusive policy.

Insight from Co-op’s 63,000 colleagues showed it needed to go further, building on existing support for colleagues whilst acknowledging pregnancy loss as a bereavement and not as sickness. The policy has been devised for all colleagues affected by pregnancy loss, regardless of when or the circumstances for the loss. Co-op is also providing a guide for managers to help provide appropriate practical and emotional support to those going through loss.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, Co-op Chief Financial Officer and CEO of Life Services, said: “Losing a baby at any stage in a pregnancy is a devastating experience.

“The decision to discuss that with your employer is an incredibly difficult and personal one. Having lost our eldest daughter and having suffered several miscarriages myself and with our surrogate I understand just how difficult it is to navigate your personal and professional life during such heartbreak.

“By creating a supportive environment companies can go a long way in easing the stress that people in this situation often feel. I am very proud that the Co-op is recognising and supporting our colleagues at a time when they need it most.”

Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP and Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee said: “It’s great to see the Co-op’s announcement place particular emphasis on the bereavement and grief of a pregnancy loss, rather than it being characterised as a ‘parental’ issue, this will ensure colleagues get the right level of support at a time when they most need it.

By increasing understanding, changing attitudes and promoting compassion amongst its colleagues, Co-op is making that step-change needed to break the taboo. I hope more businesses follow suit and rise to the challenge to help both existing and future employees.”

Ruth Bender Atik, National Director of the Miscarriage Association, said: “The Miscarriage Association is delighted to support Co-op’s dedicated pregnancy loss policy. It offers both practical and psychological support tailored to the diverse needs of colleagues and its detailed guidance is thoughtful and sensitive. Above all it acknowledges that pregnancy loss at any stage and under any circumstances can be a bereavement like any other.”

The policy is part of Co-op’s wider commitment to support bereaved parents. As the UK’s largest funeral provider, Co-op campaigned the Government to introduce the Children’s Funeral Fund in 2019, which helps bereaved parents pay for their child’s burial or cremation. In April 2020, Co-op also introduced four weeks’ fully paid leave to any colleague who loses a child under the age of 18. Extending its policy beyond Jack’s Law which led to the mandatory introduction of two week’s leave on statutory pay.

To find out more and to access the pregnancy loss policy, visit https://colleagues.coop.co.uk/pregnancy-loss-policy

ENDS

Notes to Editors

*https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/media-queries/background-information/

Co-op is sharing a range of resources from charities and support groups to help colleagues and their families, including: - The Miscarriage Association – an organisation which offers support and information for those affected by miscarriage, ectopic or molar pregnancy as well as signposting for counselling services - Petals – provides specialist support and counselling after pregnancy loss - Tommy's - a charity that funds research into pregnancy problems and provides information for parents-to-be - Sands – which works to support anyone affected by the death of a baby; improve the care bereaved parents receive; and create a world where fewer babies die - ARC – a national charity offering parents support through antenatal screening and its consequences, including bereavement - Abortion Talk - a new charity offering people the chance to talk about abortion in a non-judgemental and supportive environment - The Fertility Network – a charity offering resources and support for those affected by fertility issues - The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust – supporting people with early pregnancy complications

For more information, please contact: Sarah Fitton | sarah.fitton@coop.co.uk | 07702 506126 Elliott Lancaster | elliott.lancaster@coop.co.uk | 07808 609 944

About the Co-op
The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives with interests across food, funerals, insurance, legal services and health. Owned by millions of UK consumers, the Co-op operates 2,600 food stores, over 1,000 funeral homes and provides products to over 5,100 other stores, including those run by independent co-operative societies and through its wholesale business, Nisa Retail Limited. 

Employing over 62,000 people, the Co-op has an annual turnover of £10 billion. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Co-op is a recognised leader for its social goals and community-led programmes. The Co-op exists to meet members’ needs and stand up for the things they believe in.