WITHIN an elephant community, if a mother elephant loses her baby, the other elephants use their trunks to form a physical circle of support around her.
Sixty-eight per cent of women who return to work after a miscarriage received no support or negative support from their HR department, reports Pink Elephants, a national support service for early pregnancy loss.
Experiences of Australian women on returning to work after miscarriage, co-authored by the Pink Elephants Support Network and the University of Sydney, surveyed 607 Australian women aged 18 years and over who had experienced one or more miscarriages.
Samantha Payne, CEO and co-founder of Pink Elephants, said [they] believe there is an evident lack of understanding and awareness in workplaces about this issue.
“Women who have experienced miscarriage are too frequently relying on themselves and their own networks to navigate what is an incredibly difficult time in their lives,” Ms Payne said.
“We need to change the stigma around miscarriage….so that women returning to work can openly discuss their experience if they choose to do so.”
Pink Elephants Support Network considers employers have a part to play in supporting the one in three women [and partners] who undergo a miscarriage.
In the past year, the organisation experienced a 63 per cent increase in requests for support after early pregnancy loss.
“Last week proved to be the hardest week of my entire life. It was the week in which I lost my baby. And my world broke open. It fell apart.
This little soul has broken something open inside of me, has altered my heart in ways I cannot describe. In many ways, my baby has shown me a greater love and vulnerability than I have ever known.”
ChristyThe Pink Elephants Support Network
In addition to the bodily trauma of miscarrying, pregnancy loss in the first trimester links to high levels of sorrow, anxiety and despair for up to three years.
One survey respondent said everyone deserves support no matter what stage of the pregnancy and where you work is a big part of your life.
Ms Payne said from survey data the organisation found those who chose not to disclose their miscarriage to their workplace did so due to concerns around how it could impact their job prospects, particularly in male-dominated work environments.
“This is not good enough,” she said,
“Workplaces need to act quickly to foster more inclusive workplaces so that women and their partners are met with empathy and understanding, support resources and clear bereavement policies for pregnancy loss.”
Catherine McNair, head of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at QBE, said workplaces need to engage compassionately with employees who have experienced early pregnancy loss.
“Early pregnancy loss is more than a moment in time,” Ms McNair said.
“It’s a tragic and unexpected experience accompanied by moments of what has been lost now and in the future.
“Workplaces can have an immediate positive impact by starting the conversation.
“[As well as] providing dedicated leave for physical and mental health recovery.
“Offering support pathways such as our QBE Pink Elephants Peer Support Network, [helps] to recognise the diverse experience of all parents.”
The survey was conducted before the recent change to the Fair Work Act in September 2021.
The Act now stipulates women who experience miscarriage receive two days of paid compassionate leave from their workplace.
The Pink Elephants Support Network lobbied for this amendment to the Act for three years before its implementation.
Management of the physical aspects of miscarriage can result in the inability to go to work.
Full participation in the workplace can also be affected by the overload of emotions and grief.
The Pink Elephants Workplace Program educates businesses and organisations with resources and information to support their employees through these challenges.
Dr Melanie Keep, senior lecturer at The University of Sydney, Board Member of Pink Elephants; Dr Jane Ellen Carland, senior hospital scientist at St Vincent’s Hospital, and senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales and Samantha Payne, CEO and co-founder of Pink Elephants are the authors of the Experiences of Australian women on returning to work after miscarriage report.