New Zealand, a country that has been a pioneer on women’s rights issues, has passed legislation providing mothers and their partners three days of paid bereavement leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth.
The groundbreaking bill, which was unanimously passed by the parliament, includes parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy.
Politician Ginny Andersen, who proposed the “Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill,” told local network TVNZ:
“The bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave. Because their grief is not a sickness. It is a loss. And loss takes time.”
In her statement, Andersen mentioned that one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. She hopes that this bill will recognize “the need for time and space to deal with the imaginable grief that comes with losing a pregnancy.”
On Twitter, Andersen said the bill is 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,” she wrote.
The bill’s goal is to provide financial stability to those who experience it and pave the way for a more open discussion about miscarriages and stillbirths.
In a 2018 interview with “The Guardian,” Andersen revealed that miscarriage was still a “taboo subject” in NZ. Despite being a progressive nation, many still find it uncomfortable to discuss or seek help regarding the matter.
Although employers in the country were already mandated by law to provide paid leave in the event of a stillbirth, the qualifications surrounding it were quite confusing.
This new bill removes all of that ambiguity and extends benefits to anyone who suffers a pregnancy loss at any point.
“A miscarriage is a strange, secret birth that is also a death,” Andersen said, quoting writer Kathryn Van Beek, who she said inspired her to propose the bill. “There is still stigma in New Zealand today around asking for help.”
Before the bill was passed into law, grieving couples had to use their sick leaves when dealing with such a situation.
“The lack of clarity has meant some women have been in the position of having to argue with their employer about whether they are entitled to leave because they have lost their unborn child,” Andersen said.
“A lot of women have had more than one miscarriage and it can be very traumatic and difficult if you are trying to hold down a job.”
Andersen said New Zealand is the only second country in the world that she knows of that has passed such legislation.
She urged other nations to also “recognize the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth” and pass similar laws.”
In India, a woman is allowed six weeks of paid maternity after a miscarriage or medical termination.
Reddit, a U.S. tech company, offers eight and a half weeks of fully paid miscarriage leave for any employee who goes through a pregnancy loss—be it the father or the mother.
Not wanting to lose their jobs, many women in the U.S. feel pressured to return to work right after a pregnancy loss.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “about 1 pregnancy in 100 at 20 weeks of pregnancy and later is affected by stillbirth, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.”
These are heartbreaking statistics, but they are real, and they happen more often than many of us know. Hopefully, this progressive step by New Zealand inspires other governments in the world to enact such a law in their own countries.
What do you think of the “Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill”? Let us know in the comments below.