Some Employers Consider Granting Leave for Pregnancy Loss

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Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the NJ Legislature which would require employers to provide bereavement leave to an employee when they experience the death of a child or a miscarriage, among other reasons.  However, there has been no movement on the bill since February.

When an employer-member of Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ) reached out in late September seeking information regarding the policies of other organizations concerning time-off benefits for individuals experiencing pregnancy loss and related challenges, EANJ responded by conducting a membership survey.

The survey results revealed that all 60 participating employers offered bereavement days or other forms of paid time off that can be used for bereavement purposes.  Only 14% of respondents had formalized policies explicitly addressing pregnancy-related losses, offering between three and five days for these purposes.

A few respondents indicated that, while their policies didn’t explicitly address pregnancy loss, it would nevertheless be covered under the category of loss of a child or immediate family member.  

Pregnancy loss, which includes miscarriages and stillbirths, is a deeply personal and often distressing experience for those affected. Its impact transcends backgrounds, ages, and genders, making it a universal concern. The emotional and physical recovery from pregnancy loss can be challenging, and many individuals require time and support to heal.

Historically, workplace policies surrounding pregnancy loss have been either nonexistent or insufficient, leaving individuals to navigate their grief while maintaining their regular work commitments.

“As our understanding of mental health and well-being has expanded, so too has our recognition of the need for compassionate policies that address the unique challenges of pregnancy loss,” said Amy Vazquez, vice president of EANJ.  

In certain circumstances, temporary disability benefits may be available when an employee is unable to work for 8 days or longer.  

The newly enacted federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) imposes an obligation on covered employers (those with 15 or more employees) to provide “reasonable accommodations” to a worker’s known limitation related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless such accommodation would create an “undue hardship” for the employer.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency charged with enforcing the PWFA, has proposed regulations, which include providing accommodations for pregnancy and “related medical conditions.”  Included in the proposed definition of “related medical conditions” is miscarriage, fertility care, past and future pregnancies, and stillbirths.  Accommodations under the PWFA could include time off medical appointments and recovery.

“It is encouraging to see employers going beyond mere compliance and contemplating the inclusion of this type of employee benefit, which supports grieving employees in the same way as traditional policies support joyful new parents,” said Vazquez.