Baby loss study will shed light on workplace experiences

  • Date

    Wed 9 Sep 20

A woman, photographed in black and white, stands at a window with her hair partially covering her face. She is wearing a white shirt.

A new study, aiming to help employers better understand and support staff who experience miscarriage and stillbirth, is looking for participants from UK higher education to share their stories.

Funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust, the two-year project will be led by Dr Ilaria Boncori, an expert in gender studies and inclusion, in collaboration with Dr Hamid Foroughi from the University of Portsmouth.

“Miscarriage and stillbirth are common losses experienced by one in three couples but there is still a lack of significant qualitative empirical research in management and organisational practice,” explained Dr Boncori, a senior lecturer in management and marketing, and Deputy Dean (Education) in the Humanities Faculty.

Traditionally, research on fertility, birthing and parenthood has focused on women and their experiences. By interviewing both men and women, and by approaching the personal and professional experience of baby loss holistically, Dr Boncori hopes to provide vital insights into the professional, physical and emotional effects on individuals and their coping strategies.

“It is crucial for these experiences to be adequately managed in organisations, both in terms of employees’ wellbeing and performance. Unfortunately, the vast majority of organisations still lack appropriate and targeted policies, support mechanisms and training to address both individual and organisational needs relating to miscarriage and stillbirth” Dr Boncori said.

“This study will help organisations better support their members through these traumatic life events,” she added.

Dr Boncori is looking for participants who identify as men and women academics, from across the UK higher education sector, who have experienced miscarriage and stillbirth, to share their experiences. Although rooted in the field of organisational behaviour, and particularly in the higher education context, her findings will be relevant to numerous sectors.

“Higher education was selected to serve as a critical case,” she explained, “as academics tend to start a family later in life, often after having achieved the security of a tenured position after many years of study, teaching and publishing. Since pregnancies which occur after the age of 35 have a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, the resulting emotional and physical challenges are likely to affect academics on both a personal and professional level.”

A more general survey, targeting people across different professional contexts, will be launched in 2021.

Anyone interested in finding out more about joining the study should contact Dr Boncori.