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Do you have to grant maternity leave to an employee who's just had a miscarriage?

by , 25 April 2014
Lindsay Lohan recently confessed to having a miscarriage while filming her much publicised Oprah special. It's a traumatic event for any woman whether she's a star or just one of your employees. But what if Lohan was one of your employees? Let's say she requested maternity leave after the miscarriage. Would you have to grant it?

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The truth about miscarriage and maternity leave

The truth about miscarriage and maternity leave is that you have to grant it. There's a clause in the BCEA about maternity leave that says:
'An employee who has a miscarriage towards the end of her pregnancy or has a stillborn child is entitled to maternity leave for six weeks.'
It doesn't matter if she'd started her actual maternity leave or not. She must start those six weeks of miscarriage maternity leave the day after her miscarriage. This is also paid leave (even if, according to the Act, you offer unpaid maternity in your company) and includes all her normal maternity leave entitlements, although the time is just shorter. 
The reason this is enforced is for the emotional and physical health of your employee. She may be emotionally scared and it's common for women to suffer depression after a miscarriage.
She may also have serious illness that caused or came from the miscarriage. She needs to recover and be treated for any of these illnesses. This means her doctor will give a medical certificate for sick leave to prove the leave is needed.
But how does this leave application process work?
Everything you need to be 100% legally compliant

The process for miscarriage maternity leave

This is difficult because no one plans to have a miscarriage. Therefore, you can't really expect any kind of before-hand planning. 

As we've explained here, your employee must normally let you know in writing four weeks before she goes on leave.
With a miscarriage, it's better to treat the process the same way you would with emergency sick leave. This means talking to the employee and her doctor as best you can while she's off. You should ask for a medical certificate when she gets back to put in with the records.
Now as a star, Lindsay Lohan probably won't need miscarriage maternity leave, but your employee will. So remember these rules when giving her the leave.

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