Employment leave for early pregnancy endings: a biopolitical reproductive governance analysis in England and Wales

Middlemiss, Aimee; Boncori, Ilaria; Brewis, Joanna; Davies, Julie and Newton, Victoria (2024). Employment leave for early pregnancy endings: a biopolitical reproductive governance analysis in England and Wales. Gender, Work and Organization, 31(1) pp. 75–91.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.13055

Abstract

When a pregnancy ends in England and Wales, statutory time away from paid employment is limited to circumstances where there is a live birth or stillbirth. Forms of leave such as Maternity Leave or Paternity Leave depend on parental status derived from the civil registration of a new person or a post-viability stillbirth. Other early pregnancy endings, such as miscarriage or abortion, do not provide specific time off work after pregnancy. This paper uses the concept of reproductive governance to analyse current and shifting biopolitical truth discourses, strategies of intervention, and modes of subjectification around post-pregnancy leave. It shows how different inclusions and exclusions are generated by the classificatory boundaries which act as political technologies in this field. Contributing to an area which is under-researched in the literature, we provide a review of post-pregnancy statutory employment leave entitlements in this context. We then consider proposals for change presented in the United Kingdom political system in relation to more inclusive leave benefits offered by some employers and different pregnancy endings leave offered in other jurisdictions. We argue that current arrangements and proposals do not adequately reflect the complexity and diversity of pregnancy endings. We conclude with a call to policymakers in all contexts to carefully assess the consequences of new ideas around leave for pregnancy endings, and to formulate inclusive and fair proposals for change.

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