Hayley gave birth to her baby boy 14 weeks early. Her baby, Bobby, spent the first few months of his life in an intensive care unit in a local hospital, something which Hayley did not anticipate when beginning her maternity leave from her job in the radiology department at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW).
“I was looking forward to using my maternity leave to go on holidays with my new baby and make special memories, but with it being reduced due to him being in intensive care for the start of it we didn’t have the opportunity to,” said Hayley.
Since then, UHCW have introduced their compassionate leave policy which offers full pay up until the baby is at full term (37 weeks), so the mothers’ maternity leave can begin when expected.
Hayley adds: “Prematurity within babies is a lot more common than many people think and some babies can be in neonatal care for longer periods than what I experienced. Those extra days leave provided from the new policy will be a tremendous support to new parents and will help them feel supported to concentrate on seeing their baby grow and become stronger instead of worrying about work.”
Donna Griffiths, Chief People Officer at UHCW, along with the rest of her team, began to shape a policy which would truly stand for what the staff needed from a wellbeing perspective. After discussing with the workforce at the hospital and hearing their stories around pregnancy loss and family bereavement, the compassionate leave policy was developed to ensure no one had to take sick leave or holiday entitlement to mourn for the loss of their loved ones.
The trusts bereavement leave has been extended to ten days and those who unfortunately do experience the loss of a child will receive full pay for this leave.
"We deliver compassion every day to the patients that come to us for help, so this policy is really about showing that same care for our staff on a daily basis.”
Donna Griffiths, Chief People Officer, UHCW
The policy also allows for five full paid days of leave for those undergoing fertility treatment, something which Jess, a Workforce Business Partner at UHCW, supports massively after her experience with IVF prior to the policy.
Jess explains: “Undergoing fertility treatment can take its toll on you both emotionally and physically and to have an organisation on your side during this time is essential
“Experiencing fertility issues is an isolating experience as when you’re trying to get pregnant, you’d never normally tell anyone whereas when you have IVF you have to attend lots of different appointments and undergo invasive procedures and you need that time away from work.
“Emotionally it’s a rollercoaster. You have to wait to see if treatment worked and if not, cope with loss. I went off sick after experiencing loss during my second round of IVF as I was physically unable to work and also felt distressed from the bereavement.
“Those experiencing this moving forward will have enhanced leave for both fertility and bereavement which is a real positive to give that extra bit of reassurance during a challenging time.”
UHCW are the first trust to sign the pregnancy loss pledge, which encourages employers across the UK to adopt a leave policy to support their staff during and after experiencing a miscarriage.
“At the end of the day, we're all human beings and we are all going to potentially experience loss in its different forms,” says Donna, “We can’t expect people to leave the pain of loss at the door, so we think that this policy recognises that and aims to help support people at the most challenging times.
“We want to be a compassionate organisation; we deliver compassion every day to the patients that come to us for help, so this policy is really about showing that same care for our staff on a daily basis.”
Staff wellbeing has become a primary focus for health services in the wake of the pandemic. The past two years has seen health staff struggle with increasing pressure and demands on care which inevitably has caused lasting damage for some workers.
“The pandemic has certainly focused attention on staff wellbeing them, and what staff really need and what's important to them. Different staff groups have different needs so there certainly isn’t going to be one thing that we can do that will alleviate the problem for everybody. But we need a pick and mix approach.
“Whilst we’re still in the pandemic we are now starting to see the knock-on implications from a psychological perspective. It’s human nature to just put your head down and get on with it but it’s as we start to come out of that that people start to feel the impacts that accumulated over the last two years.”
Whilst UHCW are proud to promote their extensive compassionate leave policy, Donna hopes that others will follow in their footsteps and wants it to extend further to other employers and not just the NHS.
“We're currently working with our colleagues at Birmingham Women's and Children's Hospital who have a similar policy to ours, to see how we can promote this wider within the NHS as a starting point.
“There are a number of other organizations that have signed up to the Employer with Heart Charter. We are the first organization here to sign up to the pregnancy loss pledge through the miscarriage Association. And I know that Birmingham Women’s and Children’s [Hospital] are now doing the same.
“We see that we can lead the way in the promotion of this within the health service, but we're also keen that it goes wider than that in terms of other employers as well”.
You can hear Donna and the team speak more about UHCW compassionate leave policy below: