New Zealand’s Paid Leave for Parents is Even More Inclusive

This new measure allows miscarriage bereavement leave.

(Roma Likhvan / Shutterstock.com)

Maternity and paternity leave is a given for many countries. New Zealand’s parental leave is one of the best, giving 52 weeks as well as 26 weeks of extended leave for the parent who is the primary caregiver. Now new legislation that passed unanimously is becoming even more inclusive.

New Zealand’s parliament passed the compassionate law, in March 2021, that gives mothers and their partners three days bereavement leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth without having to tap into sick leave according to Reuters.

“The passing of this bill shows that once again New Zealand is leading the way for progressive andcompassionate legislation, becoming only the second country in the world to provide leave for miscarriage and stillbirth,” Labor Party MP Ginny Andersen, who initiated the bill, told the parliament.

“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.”

This new law took several years to develop and also includes parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy because they too experience loss.

Miscarriages are very common, occurring in up  to 20 percent of all known pregnancies before the 20th week, according to the Mayo Clinic. The NGO Sands New Zealand – which supports parents who have lost a pregnancy – said that between 7,500 to 14,750 miscarriages occur each year in that small country of 5 million people.

While legislation already existed for women who experienced stillbirths after 20 weeks, the new legislation will automatically give leave to any woman who loses a fetus at any point, making it easier for them to take the time to grieve emotionally and recover physically according to The New York Times.

“I felt that it would give women the confidence to be able to request that leave if it was required, as opposed to just being stoic and getting on with life, when they knew that they needed time, physically or psychologically, to get over the grief,” Andersen told NYT.

While this is certainly something to be commended, some people argue that it does not provide enough time off. “You get three days’ paid leave, maybe you bury your baby or you have a service, and then you go back to work, and you carry on — and then what? That’s my concern,” Vicki Culling, an educator about baby loss told NYT.

Culling sees the new legislation as only the first step but she wants to keep this compassion going and further provide for the needs of the bereaved parents. But this is likely to occur since  New Zealand has a lot of compassionate laws, like the new increase in the minimum wage, unemployment benefits and sickness leave payments that was rolled out at the end of March, according to the Guardian.

Still, even if the bereavement leave is short it is still extremely important because having a discussion about miscarriage is something that was unheard of until very recently. Bringing this formally taboo topic out in the open, and knowing that it is ok to grieve the loss of a baby is a very big first step in healing and hopefully other countries will follow and pass similar laws.

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