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Miscarriage Leave Policies Do More Than End a Taboo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/10/2021 - 4:36am in

Charlotte Nichols couldn’t imagine the emotional impact of a miscarriage until it happened to her last October, when she lost her second pregnancy at just 11 weeks.

“I was demoralized and it hit me so much harder than I ever thought,” says the 37-year-old Nichols. “I was stuck in limbo between feeling heartbroken, frustrated and confused.” 

One of the hardest parts of the experience, she recalls, was “suffering in silence due to the stigma of miscarriage.” So, she did something most business owners might shy away from — she started talking about it to both her team and clients at Harvey & Hugo, the U.K.-based marketing and PR agency she launched 11 years ago. “It didn’t make the pain go away, but I felt a weight off my chest,” she says. 

Nichols’s conversations opened her eyes to the need for more open discussions around miscarriage — even at work, often one of the least hospitable places to talk about trauma. But some workplaces are evolving, albeit slowly. Earlier this year, New Zealand became one of the first countries in the world to offer paid leave to women and their partners after a miscarriage. In other countries, individual companies have begun to implement similar policies. And conversations with women suggest that a small but growing number of workers are finding that the emotionally charged topic doesn’t need to be kept secret among bosses and colleagues.

“As my team are mainly women younger than me, I wanted them to know they could come to me if it ever happened to them,” says Nichols. “Some clients wished they’d never asked how my week was going, but that’s the reason I wanted to be open.”

miscarriage policiesCharlotte Nichols decided talk about miscarriage at the PR agency she leads. Photo courtesy Charlotte Nichols

‘My whole perspective shifted’

New Zealand’s new law, passed unanimously by Parliament, mandates three days of miscarriage leave for women and their partners. “The grief that comes with miscarriage is not a sickness. It is a loss,” said Labor Party MP Ginny Andersen, who introduced the bill. “That loss takes time — time to recover physically and time to recover mentally, time to recover with a partner.”

Deirdre Golden, diversity and inclusion specialist at the consultancy Frost Included, believes this could be a watershed moment in shifting mindsets. She says New Zealand’s move “recognizes the impact [of miscarriage] on a woman and her partner,” and “could help to change attitudes to miscarriage,” noting that it happens to around one in four pregnancies, a higher rate than many people are aware of.

That broader attitude change could prove to be more impactful than any particular company or government policy. Nichols, in fact, has chosen not to introduce an official miscarriage leave policy at her company — instead, she simply allows affected team members to take as much time off as they need. She hopes that creating a more open culture around miscarriage will not only support her workers, but tackle pregnancy discrimination, and ultimately, gender inequality in the workplace.

“I can totally understand women not wanting to speak about miscarriage in a typical workplace, as pregnancy does negatively affect our careers,” says Nichols.

Few countries have meaningful policies offering paid leave for miscarriages. India technically does, but it excludes informal workers and only applies to larger companies, which means fewer than one percent of women benefit from it. There have been calls for the U.K. and the U.S. to introduce mandatory paid miscarriage leave, so far to no avail. As it stands, in most countries it has been down to progressive businesses to set the standard, such as Monzo Bank, Xero and Reward Gateway.

One such business is owned by Brittany England, who miscarried last year. As the owner of Oregon-based marketing agency Kinship Creative, she wanted to set an example by speaking openly to her staff at about her experience, as well as introducing an official paid miscarriage leave policy. Kinship’s leave policy doesn’t set a specific time frame, but encourages at least a week off.

“After I read about New Zealand’s decision to provide paid leave to workers after a miscarriage, my whole perspective shifted. I knew I needed to take action,” says 32-year-old England, who shared her story further in a blog post.

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“By embracing a policy that provides paid leave to employees during a miscarriage, for both partners, we’re not only recognizing the emotional and physical hardship of the experience, we’re normalizing the experience, for employees and managers.”

England acknowledges the desire to remain anonymous when applying for miscarriage leave, but believes it’s more important to challenge the reasons women fear speaking openly about it in the workplace. “We’re still having the conversation about women fearing discrimination in the workplace based on being pregnant. We need to flip the script, and companies need to be at the helm of change.” 

Indeed, all businesses I researched on this issue offer miscarriage leave with the option of anonymity, with affected employees able to go directly to HR confidentially, or apply anonymously through an internal portal.

It’s the path I chose when I miscarried in 2018. I took a minimal amount of sick leave under the guise of general illness, despite still cramping, bleeding and feeling in a daze. I was in the process of transitioning from a temporary to a permanent contract and promotion, and I didn’t want to jeopardize it by giving the impression I’d soon be abandoning the company for maternity leave and wasn’t worth the investment.

Pregnancy discrimination is real, and it’s highly likely that for every case that surfaces, far more go unreported. The ones we do know about are troubling. Just last month, U.K. real estate agent Alice Thompson was awarded about $247,000 by an employment tribunal for being denied flexible working to take her young daughter to daycare. Thompson claimed the negative treatment began as soon as she revealed her pregnancy. And last year, the beauty brand Liz Earle was ordered to pay out around $23,000 to former employee Helen Larkin, after making her redundant at eight months pregnant. Larkin was then contacted by hundreds of women who also experienced workplace discrimination while pregnant.

Anonymity versus openness is a fine line to walk. Anonymity gives people the confidence to take the time they need to recover, without feeling threatened by pregnancy-related repercussions. While openness can help change company cultures, it will only be forthcoming against the security of a company-wide miscarriage policy.

In Brittany England’s example, the combination of openness and policy is already having the intended effect.

“I have been blown away by the response. Women and their partners have shared their personal stories with me about their grief, their loss, and the challenge or wins of navigating work while experiencing a miscarriage,” she says. “Others have passed along my article to their HR or leadership teams, in hopes of encouraging change. And business leaders and owners have shared that they are working to change their policies to include miscarriage leave. These are all wins, and it’s just the beginning of the conversation.”

The post Miscarriage Leave Policies Do More Than End a Taboo appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 3)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/09/2021 - 7:00pm in

By Tess Lawrence   Women live with Mandemic virus Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women In this third and final excerpt of her treatise, Tess Lawrence takes no prisoners but leaves no woman behind. In the face of the Mandemic, she calls for women – and the world – and politicians to all woman up. (Please…

The post Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 3) appeared first on The AIM Network.

Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 1)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/09/2021 - 7:00pm in

By Tess Lawrence   Tess Lawrence is not known for holding back when holding forth. In this first excerpt from a longer treatise she calls out Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accusing him of both implicit and complicit coercive control over women in Australia, including female cabinet ministers as well as complainants of alleged rape and other…

The post Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 1) appeared first on The AIM Network.

Morrison creating tensions with Asia and New Zealand

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/09/2021 - 1:14pm in

By Darrell Egan   Fresh from Scott Morrison’s announcement to go to Washington later this year after Australian Foreign Ministers Asia and Washington visit, he introduces nuclear submarines to Australia as part of AUKUS pact between Australia, Britain and the US to take a assertive military approach to China in the South China Sea. It is…

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NZ to Ban Some Single Use Plastics, Following a Familiar Distressing Pattern

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/06/2021 - 1:55am in

NZ to ban some single-use plastics, in three stages, beginning from next year and through July 2025.

No Smoking — Ever? New Zealand’s Plan to Stub Out Cigarettes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/05/2021 - 6:00pm in

For years, New Zealand has been trying to kick its smoking habit. Around half a million New Zealanders smoke tobacco every day — the equivalent of more than one in ten of all adults — and thousands die from it each year. 

In an attempt to finally stub out smoking, the government last month tabled a set of forward-looking and in some cases radical proposals largely aimed at reducing rates of smoking in younger and minority groups, pinning its hopes on a generational shift in behavior.

Among the health ministry’s proposals are a gradual increase of the legal smoking age from 18 to 25, and a lifetime ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone born after 2004. In other words, should these proposals be adopted, any New Zealander currently under 18 years old would never be able to buy cigarettes legally.

Other plans to combat smoking include significantly reducing the level of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, prohibiting flavored filters, setting a minimum price for tobacco, and heavily restricting the number of locations where tobacco and cigarettes can be sold. These follow previous policies such as creating outside smoke-free areas, introducing a tobacco excise tax and banning advertising.

“We need a new approach,” said Dr. Ayesha Verrall, New Zealand’s associate health minister, in a statement about the proposals. “About 4,500 New Zealanders die every year from tobacco, and we need to make accelerated progress to be able to reach that goal. Business-as-usual without a tobacco control program won’t get us there.”

Prohibition versus harm reduction

The proposals form part of the Smokefree 2025 goal, which was announced by the government in March 2011 and has the threefold aim of reducing the supply of and demand for tobacco products, providing better support for those trying to quit and protecting minors from exposure to tobacco marketing, by 2025.

smoking new zealandTaking a smoke break in Wellington, an act that may soon be illegal for anyone currently under 18. Credit: Peter Kurdulija

Yet with two-thirds of that timeline having already passed, smoking is still prevalent despite some advances — a reality the new proposals aim to rectify. According to the most recent data from the New Zealand Health Survey, 11.6 percent of the country’s adult population are daily smokers — down from 16.3 percent in 2011, but more than double the five percent target set by ministers.

The government says a key objective is to address the disproportionate impact of smoking on underprivileged communities. Just under one third of Māori women smoke daily, making them the group with the country’s highest rates of smoking, and as a consequence cancer is the leading cause of death for Māori women. The largest inequities are among teenage Māori girls, who are more than eight times more likely to smoke daily than non-Māori girls. Groups living in the most deprived areas are also five times more likely to smoke than those living in the least deprived areas.

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But Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, director of the Māori Smokefree Coalition, says the “devastating” impact of smoking on Māori communities goes far beyond the numbers of deaths. “The loss to Māori has hit the four areas of health, the social, economic and cultural well-being,” he says. “We have lost knowledge bases and the ability to transfer that to future generations. It is devastating.”

Bradbrook says the proposals could help tackle the “highly normalized” situation of smoking among Māori populations. “I think they are innovative and pragmatic,” he adds. “Policy changes like these draw a line in the sand that should result in the inability of the younger generations coming through to ever buy tobacco again.”

Public health experts have also praised the approach. Janet Hoek, professor of public health at the University of Otago, says the goal of reducing smoking prevalence to below five percent and as low as possible is “an excellent idea and could bring profound health benefits as well as reducing long-standing health inequities.”

According to Hoek, reducing the supply of tobacco to only five percent of the 6,000 to 8,000 outlets that currently sell it across New Zealand, would “finally recognize that tobacco is not a normal everyday product that should be sold alongside bread, milk and staple household items.” Restricting nicotine content in cigarettes, she adds, would render smoking “unsatisfying” and encourage a shift to vaping.

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Yet the government’s plans, which mark a new height in efforts to cut out smoking, have come under a broad range of criticism. Critics warn that local convenience stores would suffer an economic hit from being unable to sell tobacco, that working class groups would be unfairly penalized by the rising costs of smoking, and that the black market sale of tobacco would be given a boost from any pressure on legal sales.

“New Zealand smokers who can least afford it will spend more on their habit and in turn do harm to those around them if the government mandates lower nicotine,” said Karen Chhour, social development and children spokesperson of the right-wing ACT party, in a statement. “There’s a strong argument too that this will drive up the trade of black market tobacco with high nicotine, driving those addicted to cigarettes to turn to crime to feed their habit.”

However, pro-legalization drug advocacy groups struck a more cautious tone about the proposals to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to minimal levels and to introduce a smoke-free generation by stopping future sales to those born after a certain date.

“These need careful scrutiny,” says Kali Mercier, policy manager at the non-profit NZ Drug Foundation. “We can’t risk swinging too far towards a complete ban of cigarettes, as this has proven so ineffective when it comes to other drugs. Careful regulation is the best way to reduce harm, and the last thing we want to see is the black market stepping up tobacco sales.”

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Health professionals around the globe will be watching the results closely as tobacco smoking remains one of the world’s greatest health concerns. According to a study in The Lancet medical journal, more than eight million people died prematurely as a result of smoking in 2017. Over the course of the 20th century, it killed around 100 million people, mostly in richer countries, and estimates suggest a billion could die in the 21st century as the habit spreads to low-to-middle income nations.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health stressed that Smokefree 2025 “is a goal, not a ban” as framed by the tobacco industry and that the government would only consider the final proposals later this year at the end of the consultation period and following extended analysis. “Smoking continues to cause a significant amount of preventable disease and premature death in New Zealand,” added the spokesperson.

In the meantime, Mercier believes a “head start” could be made on initiatives that don’t require law change such as scaling up community led initiatives, renewed mass media campaigns and doing more to optimize access to vaping.

“We need to do something pretty radical to meet the goals set in the Smokefree 2025 strategy,” she says. “The mix of proposals being recommended will help us make the progress we desperately need.”

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Airline Creates ‘Gividends’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/09/2015 - 10:45am in

Think Carefully Before Importing Kiwi Welfare Model

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/03/2015 - 10:46am in

Social Welfare Investment Most Attractive to Aussie Companies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/11/2014 - 10:17am in