When employment attorney Natalie Groot experienced two miscarriages over the span of six months a couple years ago, she was devastated—but returned to work almost immediately both times.
While she felt supported by the colleagues who knew what she was going through, the occurrence left her feeling "very alone and isolated," said Groot, who works at Mintz, a Boston-based general practice law firm with roughly 1,200 employees around the country. "People were saying to take time off, but what sort of what time?"
Although Groot wanted to work to serve as a distraction, she thought about her options had she wanted any time off: Taking vacation time would mean making up that work down the road, which felt daunting. A leave of absence would mean prorated pay.
As part of her job, Groot spent a lot of time learning about various employment policies—she often drafted and revised policies for clients and read about new policies that were being implemented at other businesses. She had heard that Bumble, the dating app, had announced a compassionate paid-leave policy in 2021 that allowed workers to take off 15-plus days for situations such as a miscarriage.
So Groot went to her firm's women's initiative group and human resources with an idea: How about adding a miscarriage-leave policy at Mintz?
"I think my first reaction was, 'I can't believe we don't have this on our policy,' " said Heather Kelly, chief talent officer at Mintz. "Natalie identified a big gap, and we all immediately knew we needed to do this."
The firm now provides 15 days of consecutive paid leave following a miscarriage, as well as five days of paid leave in a 12-month period after a failed surrogacy, adoption or fertility treatment. The policy, which was implemented last year, has been a big hit not only among Mintz's employees but with workers—and company leaders—in different industries around the country.
"I received hundreds of e-mails from colleagues, from strangers, people in other businesses who read about it or heard about it, just thanking me for talking about it, thanking me for raising the issue," Groot said. "Aside from thanking me, so many shared their own stories of loss or grief—how they worked long hours and didn't know who to talk to or how to take time off. So many people had experienced a loss like a miscarriage, and they found it hard to broach the topic."
Miscarriage leave has historically been a rare company offering; it hasn't been an isolated benefit or a part of most employers' bereavement policies. But a shift is occurring, with a handful of employers now offering employees the benefit, pointing to it as an emerging trend.
Goldman Sachs, Liberty Mutual and Pinterest are among the growing number of employers that have added policies giving paid time off to employees who go through miscarriages. Pinterest introduced a policy in January 2022 offering four weeks of paid leave to parents who experience a loss through a miscarriage at any point in the pregnancy. Goldman Sachs also added 20 days of paid leave for an employee, or a spouse or surrogate, who has a miscarriage or stillbirth.
"We're definitely seeing organizations trend more toward providing bereavement leave, and now we're seeing them actually offer employees time off when there is a miscarriage, or if there's a failed IVF," said Maria Trapenasso, SHRM-SCP, human capital solutions national practice leader at NFP, a New York City-based benefits consultant.
Research points to a big change as well. Recent data from NFP finds that nearly one-quarter of bereavement-leave policies allow an employee to take time off for a miscarriage or failed in vitro fertilization (24 percent). Additionally, some employers offer bereavement-leave allowances for the death of any close relations (32 percent) and the death of a pet (7 percent).
A Competitive Advantage
The trend comes as employers try to navigate a still-hot job market, which is contributing to increased employee expectations and a need for employers to enhance offerings to better appeal to workers.
Revamping leave policies—and making sure to include benefits that address life moments or times of grief—is indeed a way to make employers attractive to potential and current employees. These factors and more are causing employers to identify gaps in coverage and offerings. Miscarriage, for instance, is a common occurrence; according to the Mayo Clinic, roughly 10 percent to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.
The pandemic has intensified things, leading employees to ask for more than they have before. They're seeking mental health help, caregiving support, improved leave policies, support for child care and more.
Not only are employees overwhelmingly asking for better support; they're also expecting it. Research finds that better benefits and care are among the top reasons employees leave for a different employer. Just-released research from MetLife also finds that employees' satisfaction with their benefits fell to 61 percent in 2023, down from 64 percent in 2022 and reaching its lowest point in the past decade—data that signals employees' expectations are growing.
"The pandemic was the catalyst for people really taking care of themselves and understanding that stress is a big factor, that mental health is a big factor," Trapenasso said. "Employees are realizing they need to take better care of themselves; they need to find work/life balance."
Younger workers, in particular, have been vocal about their needs, she noted, with many of them not hesitating to look for work elsewhere if their needs aren't met.
Smart employers are trying to keep up.
"If they're going to attract and retain top talent, they need to actually offer those things," Trapenasso said. "Employees are saying, 'If we don't get what we want, we'll just go somewhere else.' "
The Right Thing to Do
More than anything, proponents of expanded leave policies said, offering miscarriage leave is the right thing to do, as it demonstrates support for employees during a trying time.
Groot said offering paid leave for women who go through a miscarriage—as well as their partners (Mintz's policy, for instance, allows all employees, regardless of gender, to take paid leave for a failed surrogacy, adoption or fertility treatment, and spouses and domestic partners of women who experience a miscarriage are also eligible for the leave)—is recognition that employees are cared for.
"It's important to recognize that so much of this policy is the open acknowledgement of the physical and emotional toll that follows miscarriages and other fertility-related events," she said. "A policy that provides one day or three days or five days or 15 days provides that acknowledgement."
Trapenasso agreed, saying such leave policies take away one of many stresses that someone going through a miscarriage has to deal with.
"By including it in employer policies, it gives the employee one less thing to worry about during an incredibly stressful and emotional time," she explained. "They don't have to approach their employer wondering what kind of time off they can get if they suffer from this loss—if they have to take unpaid or paid, which bucket it should go in. Instead, it's already spelled out.
"It shows compassion, and it shows that they're actually concerned with the employee's well-being."