New Zealand’s parliament has voted unanimously to grant parents three days’ paid bereavement leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth, becoming one of the first countries in the world to do so.
Ginny Anderson, the Labour MP who introduced the bill to parliament, said it would allow parents time to grieve the loss of their pregnancy, without being forced to use up their other sick leave entitlements.
The new legislation applies to parents, their partners, and parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy.
“I can only hope that while we may be one of the first, we will not be one of the last, and that other countries will also begin to legislate for a compassionate and fair leave system that recognizes the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth,” Anderson said in parliament.
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
Anderson said she hopes the legislation will give parents the 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,” she said.
In New Zealand, one in four women have had a miscarriage, while around 20,000 women lose a pregnancy through miscarriage or stillbirth each year.
Anderson said she hopes the paid leave will help remove stigma surrounding pregnancy loss.
“I hope that this bill will go some way in allowing women to feel more comfortable about talking about miscarriage and that they feel comfortable reaching out for support and for help in what is a huge physical and emotional loss,” she said in parliament.
The legislation was supported wholly by the opposition National party, with Scott Simpson, an MP from the opposition, saying it was the right thing to do.
“Occasionally and not often enough, in my view, we come together as parliamentarians in a unified, dignified, respectful way to do the right thing,” he said. “This is an example of such an occasion.”
The paid leave reform comes more than a year after New Zealand decriminalised abortion, and just months after it announced school students in the country will be able to access free period products, including pads and tampons, from June this year.
According to reports, India is the only other country to have legislated leave after miscarriage.