2000 Australian families are affected by stillbirth every year. This number has not decreased in two decades.
Stillbirth is one of the most traumatic events that a parent can experience. Yet, many employer parental leave policies are not clear about what support is offered to the parents of a stillborn child. Because of this, it is often left to the discretion of managerial staff to determine how best to support their employee.
In response to the lack of available support for grieving parents, Stillbirth Foundation Australia, a group of parents and corporate leaders including Work180 - a Startmate portfolio company - launched a campaign to have stillbirths recognised in paid parental leave policies.
Since the campaign launched in 2017, the list of employers has grown to include Xero, HSBC, Microsoft, Telstra, Optus, Roads and Maritime Services (NSW Government), BP, CSIRO, and PwC.
At Blackbird, we have committed to safeguarding our team’s emotional wellbeing in the future by amending our own parental leave policy to include stillbirth and neonatal death. Our amended Leave Policy reads:
"Stillbirth or Neonatal Death: If you are entitled to paid and unpaid parental leave, you will remain entitled to that leave in the event of a stillbirth (from 20 weeks of pregnancy) or neonatal death (within 28 days of birth). You are not required to resubmit a new leave application, the original application will remain in force. In the case of stillbirth or neonatal death, you may (at your full discretion) request to return to work by giving 4 weeks’ written notice to your manager."
During a time when a team member and their family are grieving, clear policies around these occurrences are the best support mechanism in removing ambiguity and help to alleviate unnecessary added stress. Additionally, this support removes financial pressures from families during an already difficult period when parents will likely need time away from the office. This leave will have already been factored in the parental leave, therefore it has zero added costs to the company.
Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
In a community the size of Blackbird’s, the tragedy of a stillbirth is inevitable. We believe it is important to ensure clear policies are part of our foundation. Our ambition in sharing this policy is that it will inspire other companies in our ecosystem to follow suit.