'Asked HR to help' | Amazon worker's miscarriage puts focus on workplace pregnancy policies

Amazon worker's miscarriage puts focus on workplace pregnancy policies

Allegations that an Amazon worker suffered a miscarriage after the company denied her requests for lighter duties has put workplace pregnancy policies back in the spotlight.

Earlier this week, Vice publication Motherboard reported claims that Patty Hernandez, a 23-year-old Amazon warehouse worker in California, miscarried after seven weeks of pregnancy during a shift at one of the firm’s fulfilment centres in October 2020.

At the time, her ten-hour shifts involved lifting bins of merchandise, weighing up to 50 pounds, onto conveyor belts.

Motherboard said it had had sight of a doctor’s note provided by Ms Hernandez to Amazon’s HR team, which is said to have suggested “no lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying more than 20 pounds, and no walking or standing for more than 50 percent of her shift.”

From our premium content

It added that Ms Hernandez had made several requests to her manager and the warehouse’s HR team for lighter duties, but her requests and doctor’s note were allegedly turned down as there was “was no specific area for light work that wouldn't require over 15 pounds of lifting” or for her to be off her feet.”

Amazon has disputed elements of the claims made in the Motherboard article, but vowed to look into the situation in more detail.

An Amazon Spokesperson said: “We partner with each Amazon employee on an individual basis to ensure they have what they need to stay healthy. We gladly offer support and medical accommodations to thousands of employees across our operations daily. It’s troubling to hear these allegations and Ms. Hernandez’ loss, however there are inconsistencies in the details shared with VICE, and we’re continuing to look into the situation and support Ms. Hernandez to determine what additional help she may need.”

The issue has reignited the conversation around special policies in the workplace for employees going through similar experiences.

Firms step up pregnancy and miscarriage policies:

A wealth of data has pointed towards the number of people that have been impacted by miscarriage, menopause and menstruation, highlighting the need for policies like this in the workplace.

Research published on Tommys.org website found that an estimated one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.

In addition, data from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine found that almost eight out of ten menopausal women are in work.

HR Grapevine previously reported how other businesses have been introducing new policies around menstruation, miscarriage and menopause.

Modibodi, a reusable and sustainable period pant brand, recently became one of the latest firms to announce a new policy that offers staff paid leave for such situations. The plan was introduced to support employees after birthing complications as well as to normalise conversations around menstruation and menopause.

Employees working for the organisation will accrue an extra ten days of paid personal leave for menstruation, menopause discomfort or in the sad circumstance of a miscarriage.

Modibodi explained that these paid leave days aren’t taken from ‘sick leave’ but are instead specifically designed for use by staff who are suffering menstrual or menopause symptoms which could interfere with their work.

Kristy Chong, CEO and Founder at Modibodi, explained that these policies form part of the firm’s commitment to “normalise conversations about menstruation” and also remove any stigma associated with it.

“To help change those attitudes, we need to start in our own office, and this new policy is one action we can take now to help do that.”

Yet, the sustainable brand’s policy goes further than just offering menstrual leave as it incorporates paid leave for those suffering from symptoms of the menopause too.

Chong added: “We’re giving employees the option to take paid leave days for either menstruation or menopause, or to choose to work from home during days when they’re feeling discomfort.

“We want our staff to be able to be honest about their experiences of menstruation, menopause and miscarriage by encouraging people to feel comfortable asking for support and understanding when they need it.”

Channel 4 & Monzo:

The launch of Modibodi’s new policy follows in the footsteps of several employers including Channel 4 and Monzo who have rolled out similar schemes to better support staff.

Television network Channel 4 previously announced the launch of its dedicated Pregnancy Loss Policy which was designed to support staff through pregnancy loss – which includes, but is not limited to, miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion.


You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.