New Zealand Just Passed a Bill Guaranteeing Paid Leave for Miscarriages and Stillbirths
Women and their partners will be allotted three days of time off to grieve.
Couples who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth in New Zealand will be eligible to receive three days of paid leave by law in the coming weeks, according to the New York Times.
New Zealand’s parliament unanimously voted on the measure on Wednesday after the law had been in development for several years.
"The grief that comes with miscarriage is not a sickness; it is a loss, and that loss takes time — time to recover physically and time to recover mentally," Labour Member of Parliament Ginny Andersen, who sponsored the decision, said during a final reading of the bill.
New Zealand is only the second known country in the world to mandate such a law, according to Andersen.
Andersen credits writer Kathryn Van Beek, who approached the MP after she experienced a miscarriage, for inspiring the legislation.
Previous regulations required employers in New Zealand to provide paid leave only for stillbirths, which occur when a couple loses a fetus after 20 weeks or more. Couples who experienced miscarriages or stillbirths before that window had to ask for sick leave.
Final reading of my Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill. This is a Bill about workers’ rights and fairness. I hope it gives people time to grieve and promotes greater openness about miscarriage. We should not be fearful of our bodies. pic.twitter.com/dwUWINVjLm— Ginny Andersen (@ginnyandersen) March 24, 2021
While some companies already have a bereavement leave policy in place for miscarriages and stillbirths, the new law allows anyone who loses a pregnancy at any stage to qualify without having to show proof. Couples who are grieving miscarriages or stillbirths through surrogacy or adoption are also included in the bill.
Supporters of the new legislation hope it provides financial stability for grieving couples and makes room for more open conversations about miscarriages and stillbirths.
Women who miscarry can experience long-term post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression after their loss, yet many do not receive the care and support they need to recover. When workplaces don’t acknowledge the emotional and physical pain of the experience and employees aren’t given time to fully process the trauma, it can impact their performance and well-being. Workplaces that don’t offer women job protections through adequate paid family and medical leave put them at risk of missing out on income, new opportunities, and career growth.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health estimates that one to two out of every 10 pregnancies end in miscarriage in the country, with an estimated 5,900 to 11,800 miscarriages or stillbirths reported annually — but it remains a taboo subject, according to Andersen.
While more than 95% of miscarriages occur in the first 12 to 14 weeks, miscarriages that occur around the 20th week of pregnancy or later are more common than many people think, research shows.
Advocates welcomed the introduction of three days of paid leave for miscarriages and stillbirth as an important first step, but warn the policy does not leave enough time to grieve, according to the New York Times.
India is the only other country that currently grants women paid leave after a miscarriage, but most women work in the informal workplace and cannot benefit from the law. Andersen is urging other countries to join New Zealand in passing similar legislation that acknowledges the painful and challenging process of experiencing miscarriages and stillbirths.