Opinion: More businesses should offer paid leave after the loss of pregnancy

Mar 7 2022, 6:24 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Sahar Kanani, the senior director of programming at MacroHealth.

For most women and families, pregnancies are a time of joy, celebration, and anticipation. Who will the little ones resemble? What will we name them? How will we prepare ourselves and our homes for their arrival? As a senior leader in tech, my first pregnancy also meant planning for my time off so that day-to-day work could go on without me.

Some things, however, were out of my control. Two days before flying out of town for a work meeting, tragedy struck: I suffered a miscarriage. 

Despite my doctor advising me to take some time off and avoid travel, my former employer still expected me to attend the out-of-town meeting. This is not to say they were ruthless. Rather, they had a very black-and-white understanding of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. You either carry a baby to term and then it’s a living person, or the pregnancy doesn’t “take,” there’s no new child to care for, and it’s back to work. 

To say that this impacted me would be an understatement. I was already experiencing the extreme physical pain of a lost pregnancy, as well as an explosion of hormones I could never have predicted.

Then there was the emotional anguish of seeing a suddenly “pointless” baby room that now served as a reminder of what was “supposed to be.” This experience brought home for me the lack of understanding, awareness, and empathy of employers that don’t recognize the loss of pregnancy as a devastating period of mourning and physical pain for many of the 20% of Canadian women who experience it.

The good news is that a growing number of employers are treating the loss of pregnancy as they would the passing of a loved one. When I joined MacroHealth, it was for a host of reasons, many of which contributed to the Vancouver company being recognized as one of BC’s Top Employers for 2022. But one reason stands out: upon sharing my miscarriage experience with MacroHealth’s HR team, as well as my ardent belief that loss of pregnancy warrants paid time off, my words were quickly acted upon. Paid time off for the loss of pregnancy is now one of the many benefits offered to all employees at MacroHealth. I am proud to have helped make this happen at my company, and I truly hope that other organizations follow suit. 

With International Women’s Day upon us, society is celebrating the myriad crucial roles that women and female-identifying women play in our world. Having this benefit added in an industry that is typically dominated by male voices makes me proud of having my own voice heard. When looking for a place to work, I hope anyone who is considering starting a family has the same kind of support my company offers. Hoping for the best but planning for the worst is the hallmark of a responsible and caring employer. I hope my story inspires other organizations to treat the loss of pregnancy with the solemnity, respect, and compassion it deserves.

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