AUCKLAND, New Zealand – New Zealand’s parliament unanimously passed legislation on Wednesday granting three days of paid leave to couples who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth, making the country the vanguard of those performing such services.
Employers in New Zealand, as in some other countries, were already required to grant paid leave in the event of a stillbirth if a fetus is lost after 20 weeks or more. The new legislation will expand this possibility to anyone who loses a pregnancy at any time, removing any confusion. The measure is expected to take effect in the coming weeks.
“I felt that it would give women the confidence to apply for this vacation when they need to, rather than just being stoic and getting on with life when they knew they needed time, physically or mentally, to read about it get over grief, “said Ginny Andersen, the Labor MP who drafted the bill.
Ms. Andersen added that she could not find comparable legislation anywhere in the world. “We may be the first country,” she said, “but all of the countries where New Zealand is usually compared to legislation for the 20 week mark.”
The new law does not apply to abortions, added Ms. Andersen. New Zealand decriminalized abortion last year, ending the country’s status as one of the few wealthy nations to limit reasons for terminating a pregnancy in the first half.
The new law, which has been in development for several years, takes place amid a broader global reckoning of women at work. Women have long struggled to balance their employers’ demands with issues like pregnancy, which sometimes resulted in them missing out on advancement and other opportunities.
In Australia, people who have a miscarriage are entitled to unpaid leave if they lose a fetus after 12 weeks, while in the UK prospective parents who have a stillbirth after 24 weeks are entitled to paid leave. The United States does not require employers to take vacation leave for anyone who experiences a miscarriage.
According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 20 percent of all known pregnancies in the United States result in a miscarriage. In New Zealand, which has a population of five million, the Department of Health estimates that one to two pregnancies in ten will result in a miscarriage.
Sands New Zealand charity, which supports parents who have lost pregnancies, says 5,900 to 11,800 miscarriages or stillbirths occur each year. According to the New Zealand College of Midwives, more than 95 percent of miscarriages occur in the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy.
A miscarriage or stillbirth remains a difficult and painful topic that health lawyers say is difficult to talk about in public or seek support.
“If you call the hospital and say,” I think I miscarried my baby, “so many women will say,” I felt like the first person in the world to miscarry, “said Vicki Culling. an educator on baby loss who advocated better support for the bereaved in New Zealand.
“The very foundations of your world are crumbling just because you expect to have this beautiful baby, and when that baby dies, whether in the womb or shortly after birth, everything is broken.”
Ms. Culling welcomed New Zealand legislation as a first step, but said more needed to be done.
“You get three days of paid vacation, maybe you bury your baby or you have a job, and then you go back to work and carry on – and then what? That’s my concern, ”she said.
“I celebrate, but I want us to maintain that compassion and delve deeper into the needs of these parents.”