New Zealand: Ahead of the curve on Miscarriage Paid Leave

by Tatyana Baldwin
Image: Spi-V / Flickr

The terms miscarriage and stillbirth are applied to a pregnancy that leads to the loss of the baby. Both of these events cause unmeasurable grief and pain for the parents. As with any loss, it takes time to heal and accept the reality of the loss. For this reason, it is vitally important that the severity of these situations are met with the utmost respect in legislation. 

Recently, New Zealand has become one of the first countries to approve paid leave for a couple who has experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. The legislation would provide three days of paid leave separate from sick leave. Ginny Andersen is responsible for putting forth the bill to allow the couple to “come to terms with their loss.” Andersen describes how “grief is not a sickness, it is a loss,” and for that reason, this leave should be separate from sick leave.  

This type of legislation has only been seen in India prior to New Zealand in which women receive 6 weeks of paid leave. In Britain, couples who experience stillbirth 24 weeks into the pregnancy are eligible for paid leave according to the NY Times. Meanwhile, the United States has no such legislation. Miscarriage is most likely to take place early into a pregnancy; within the first 20 weeks according to Mayo Clinic. Miscarriages commonly occur when there are chromosomal abnormalities that cause the fetus to be aborted. Unfortunately, miscarriage is a relatively common occurrence that can be extremely difficult to grapple with  fact and accept..

This legislation sets New Zealand ahead of so many developed countries in the world. The rare quantity of legislation like this one that was unanimously passed in New Zealand raises questions concerning why this isn’t common in the world today. There have been debates and legislation concerning womens’ ability to have an abortion, which has been criminalized or somehow restricted  in countries throughout the world. However, when it comes to spontaneous abortion such as miscarriage or stillbirth it seems a large majority of countries in our modern world are slow to respond and accommodate those who have experienced such a loss.

While this legislation can be viewed as a win for New Zealanders, it still does leave some concerns. Vicki Culling, an educator on baby loss, commented on the length of the leave by stating how the legislation allows time to “maybe […]bury your baby or […] have a service, and then you go back to work, and you carry on — and then what?” This is a major concern considering the anguish that is involved in experiencing this painful loss and the time it truly takes to grieve and heal. However, this legislation is a stepping stone that can lead to similar legislation, or at least give a basis to add and improve upon. Hopefully, in time, this legislation will start to be seen worldwide and give much needed time to those who have suffered such a loss to heal.     

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