After pregnancy leave, parental leave, New Zealand women who have a miscarriage at any stage in their pregnancy and their partners could soon be entitled to bereavement leave. The bereavement provisions of the Holidays Act 2003 are currently ambiguous in how they apply to miscarriage. A bill, which also covers stillbirths and would legislate for three days’ paid bereavement leave, is to be considered by the country’s parliament.
New Zealanders are currently entitled to bereavement leave after losing a family member or child but this fails to include the loss of a child who is not born alive. A bill legislating three days’ leave will be discussed by members of New Zealand’s parliament after labour MP Ginny Andersen sponsored it. She stated that miscarriage was still a “taboo subject” in the country. But the idea of paid leave to grieve the loss of a baby at any stage of the pregnancy has made the subject a talking point.
A petition supporting the bill says that it would remove this ambiguity “by making it clear that the unplanned death of a foetus constitutes grounds for bereavement leave for the mother and her partner or spouse.” It has so far garnered over 3,700 signatures. At present, New Zealand employees get bereavement leave for a minimum of three days for losing a spouse or partner, parent, child, sibling, grandchild, grandparent and a spouse or partner’s parent. The country’s Ministry of Health says miscarriages are “fairly common” – with one or two out of every 10 pregnant women miscarrying a baby.
Congratulations to @ginnyandersen for getting her Bill drawn! The Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill amends the Holidays Act 2003 to make it clear that women and their partners can get 3 days bereavement leave after a miscarriage. https://t.co/hjaVDVtWQx pic.twitter.com/sW6cDgphIH
— Marja Lubeck (@MarjaLubeck) August 9, 2018
Ruth Bender Atik, national director of the Miscarriage Association here in the UK, welcomed the proposed bill. “I think some people will be really grateful for it. For many women and their partners, a miscarriage means the loss of a baby and the hopes and the dreams for that child,” she told The Independent. “It would give people the time out you need when you have been bereaved. It acknowledges a miscarriage is a significant event and this is even true for people who don’t take the leave.” She said the discussion the proposed bill had provoked was helping to reduce the taboo which surrounds miscarriages.
In Britain, a miscarriage before the end of the 24th week of pregnancy does not qualify for bereavement leave, but a stillborn child who is born after this date makes the mother eligible to maternity leave and associated pay.
Some other countries have provisions for paid leave if a woman miscarries. Indian law instructs that women are eligible to six weeks’ leave if they miscarry a baby. However, the overwhelming majority of employees in the country carry out informal work so not many are entitled to it.