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A wave of organizations are offering paid leave for pregnancy loss

Natalie Groot, a lawyer at Mintz, championed a new policy offering employees bereavement leave for pregnancy loss after having two miscarriages in six months. Paid leave for pregnancy loss is a growing benefit.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

After having two miscarriages in the span of six months, Natalie Groot realized how common her experience was — and how often women suffer in silence.

Like many women who lose a pregnancy, Groot went right back to work as an employment attorney for the Boston law firm Mintz.

But as she kept tabs on new employee policies, Groot soon learned that the dating-app company Bumble had started offering workers paid time off following a miscarriage, and she approached her firm about doing the same.

As of Jan. 27, Mintz is offering its 1,200 employees, about half of whom are in Boston, 15 days of paid leave following a miscarriage, and five days after a failed fertility treatment, adoption, or surrogacy. In doing so, Mintz joins a wave of employers offering paid time off for employees struggling to conceive, including the Waltham public relations firm Inkhouse, the City of Boston, and every company in New Zealand.

The pandemic has spurred a raft of expanded benefits revolving around caregiving and mental health, both of which were put in the spotlight as schools and day cares shut down and people’s anxiety and isolation rose. With companies scrambling to fill jobs in this tight labor market, they’re focusing on “signal benefits” that will set them apart from other employers, said Robin Antonellis, executive director of the New England Employee Benefits Council. And in an era of increased remote work, with perks such as fitness centers and massage tables “out the window” in many places, she said, employers are turning their attention to benefits that don’t involve the physical workplace.


Fertility benefits have been on the rise in recent years, including in-vitro fertilization and egg freezing, which can benefit LGBTQ couples and bolster companies’ efforts to diversify their workforces. A number of companies are increasing paid time off for new parents. Google just increased its parental leave — to 24 weeks for those who give birth — in addition to doubling its leave to care for other family members to eight weeks.


At Mintz, which is also expanding bereavement leave for the loss of family members and has made several additions to its parental benefits in the past year, the work can be high pressure, said managing partner Bob Bodian, and the firm wants to be “as comforting as possible,” particularly for women. (All employees, regardless of gender, are eligible for paid leave for a failed surrogacy, adoption, or fertility treatment, as are spouses and domestic partners of women who suffer a miscarriage.) Law firms have long struggled to retain women, who make up nearly half of new associates but only about 20 percent of equity partners at large firms, according to a 2019 American Bar Association report.

“There’s an all-too-common toll on professional women whose child-bearing years overlap directly with some of their most important career development years,” said Groot, 34, who is expecting a baby in June. “The path to partnership and the path to parenthood often overlap.”

Miscarriages are “extremely common,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (now KFF), which estimates they occur in 10 to 20 percent of confirmed pregnancies. One in six women who have a miscarriage suffer from long-term anxiety and post-traumatic stress, according to a 2020 study.

The investment banking company Goldman Sachs recently added 20 days of paid leave if an employee, or a spouse or surrogate, has a miscarriage or stillbirth. Pinterest now provides four weeks for pregnancy loss, in addition to 12 weeks for new parents with newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit.


A number of countries, including India, the Philippines, South Korea, and, most recently, New Zealand, require employers to grant paid time off after miscarriages. Representative Ayanna Pressley has proposed legislation that would require US employers to provide at least three days of paid leave to workers following a pregnancy loss or failed IVF, adoption, or surrogacy arrangement.

In a statement, Pressley said she was glad that private companies had begun providing protections for pregnancy loss and that she would continue to push for the bill to become law. “The trauma associated with experiencing pregnancy loss can have a lasting effect on individuals and families who often struggle in silence due to lack of awareness and cultural stigma,” she said.

Paid leave for pregnancy loss hasn’t come without controversy, however. New policies in Boston, Portland, Ore., and Pittsburgh include time off after abortions, sparking negative coverage from several conservative publications. The National Catholic Register wrote that critics found these municipal policies “chilling” and referenced a Nov. 30 speech by former vice president Mike Pence in which he said: “In Democrat-run cities across America, they’re now providing financial incentives for abortion by implementing paid abortion leave. In Boston, for example, government employees can receive 12 weeks of paid leave for an abortion — the same benefit provided for childbirth.”


The new benefit for city employees was part of an expansion of the paid parental leave policy, which previously included six weeks off for stillbirths. Updating it to encompass all pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and termination, is meant to provide more protections and “establish a policy that is strong and equitable,” according to a Sept. 15 Boston City Council committee chair report by Lydia Edwards, who sponsored the amendment along with then-councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George.

A spokeswoman for Mintz said abortion was not part of the discussion when the new leave policy was drafted, but it could be considered. Inkhouse, on the other hand, clearly states that it applies to abortion. “It’s for bereavement, and we aren’t concerned with how that loss happened,” chief executive Beth Monaghan told the Globe.

Pressley’s bill has time off for “a medical diagnosis or event that impacts pregnancy or fertility,” which includes abortion, a spokesman said.

Whether or not it includes terminations, paid leave for pregnancy loss will probably become more common, as will other benefits related to behavioral health, caregiving, and bereavement, said Antonellis at the New England Employee Benefits Council. Companies are laser-focused on attracting and retaining workers, she noted, particularly women, who left the workforce in droves during the pandemic.


It’s no coincidence that women are the primary users of the three types of benefits being expanded, she said: “It does all tie together. ... There are silver linings to the pandemic.”

Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.