Lidl NI becomes first company in Northern Ireland to recognise early pregnancy loss and miscarriage as a bereavement in new policy

Family retailer will offer three days leave at full pay to all employees affected by an early pregnancy loss & miscarriage, regardless of gender, including those with a surrogate mother

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 1:00 pm

Lidl Northern Ireland is set to become the first local company to extend its Compassionate Leave policy to include three days at full pay to all employees who have experienced or been affected by early pregnancy loss and miscarriage. This extends to all employees, regardless of gender, including those with a surrogate mother.

The inclusion of early pregnancy loss and miscarriage in Lidl NI’s Compassionate Leave Policy recognises that early pregnancy loss and miscarriage is a bereavement, and one not isolated to women or heterosexual couples.

The extension of the Compassionate Leave Policy will offer paid compassionate leave along with a robust support system including 24-hour access to its dedicated Employee Assistance Programme for mental health, up to five free sessions with a professional counsellor and a peer or colleague support system, should an employee need it.

Pictured announcing the new policy is Denise White-Hughes, Head of Employee Relations for Lidl Ireland and Lidl Northern Ireland with daughter Elise

Lidl NI’s ambition is to encourage a national conversation to help destigmatise isolating and traumatic reproductive health challenges which are lived by so many people in Northern Ireland every day.

While more than 20,000 Northern Irish women give birth every year, more than three babies per week are stillborn or die in the first four weeks of life.

Currently, in the event of a stillbirth occurring after the 24th week of pregnancy, an employee is entitled to 26 weeks paid maternity leave. There is no entitlement to statutory maternity leave in the case of pregnancy loss occurring up to and including the 24th week of pregnancy.

Lidl NI offers at least 20 days paid sick leave per annum to all employees and most, but not all employees will utilise the company’s illness benefit scheme in the event of suffering an early pregnancy loss or miscarriage. However, some employees do not feel comfortable telling their employer about their loss which leads to a further sense of isolation at a most traumatic time.

Lidl NI commits to supporting all employees who suffer the devastating loss of a pregnancy, whether it happens directly to them, their partner or their baby’s surrogate mother, regardless of the nature of their loss.

Ruth Bender Atik, National Director of the Miscarriage Association, said: “The experience of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy can be deeply distressing, both emotionally and physically. It is also still something of a taboo subject, despite being sadly common, and women and their partners can feel very alone and unsupported at a very difficult time.

“Lidl NI’s new pregnancy loss policy goes a long way to addressing this, providing paid leave when employees need it most as well as additional support services. Importantly it helps to break the silence associated with even the earliest of pregnancy losses, acknowledging that it can be a bereavement like any other. Hopefully, it will become an exemplar for many other organisations across NI.”

The new early pregnancy loss and miscarriage leave policy is the latest move by the retailer to implement a robust employee benefit scheme in the area of Maternity & Adoptive Leave. Other existing policies include Maternity Leave, Adoptive Leave, Paternity Leave, Parents Leave, Fostering Leave, Parental Leave & Carers Leave.

Lidl NI’s Lupilu Family Leave programme is a dedicated, programme designed to support and develop employees, ensuring that they can achieve their potential whilst balancing the demands of taking time out of work to care for their families.

Lidl NI is recognised for its industry leading employee benefits packages, with the company recently named Top Employer for 2021 by the Top Employer’s association. The esteemed international, sought-after certification showcases an organisation’s dedication to a better world of work, exhibited through excellent HR policies and people practices.

Denise White-Hughes, Head of Employee Relations, Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland, explained: “At Lidl, we recognise the needs of our employees are evolving all the time as they progress though different stages of their lives, and we want to ensure that we are facilitating those needs in the most sensitive and supportive way that we can. The silence around pregnancy loss has forced many to cope with it alone and we want to ensure that we help to lift the silence and offer support for all those who have experienced this loss.

“There is already provision for leave for late-term pregnancy loss and miscarriage after six months, but we want to support our colleagues who suffer this shattering loss at every stage. Many will use sick leave to get them through this time, but this shouldn’t be treated as a sickness – this should be formally recognised as a bereavement and the support structures made available for those who need them.”

J.P. Scally, CEO, Lidl Ireland and NI, added: “We’re proud to introduce these important policy changes around the area of early pregnancy loss and miscarriage. Our new policy is designed to provide strong supports to those suffering a loss, supporting them on their return to work and making the tools available to our workforce to ensure they have the confidence to support their colleagues with compassion.”

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