New Zealand Passes Bereavement Leave For Couples Who Suffer Miscarriage

by Cassandra Stone
Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand’s miscarriage leave is the first legislation like this to exist in the world

On Wednesday, New Zealand‘s Parliament unanimously approved legislation that allows couples who have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth three days of paid leave at full pay. This is the first legislation of its kind of countries that provide bereavement benefits. The leave also includes parents who were planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy.

Employers in New Zealand had already been required to provide paid leave in the event of a stillbirth, when a fetus is lost after 20 weeks or more. The new legislation expands that leave to anyone who loses a pregnancy at any point. The measure is expected to become law in the coming weeks.

“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,” said Ginny Andersen, the Labour member of Parliament who drafted the bill.

Andersen says she believes the bill will “lead the way” for more progressive and compassionate legislation. Hopefully she’s right, and even more hopefully, other countries take note and adopt similar acts of legislation.

“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,” Andersen told local network TVNZ in a statement.

The new law, which does not cover abortions, is very timely as women have suffered under grueling circumstances amid the pandemic — which has highlighted those circumstances into a global spotlight. Pregnancy is one of the biggest hurdles in employment as it is, with many pregnant people being passed over for promotions or even getting laid off due to pregnancy and new parenthood.

In Australia, pregnant people who miscarry receive unpaid leave if they lose a fetus after 12 weeks. In the UK, potential parents who experience a stillbirth after 24 weeks are eligible for paid leave. And, of course, the United States doesn’t require employers to provide any sort of leave for anyone who suffers a miscarriage.

According to the March of Dimes, about 10-15% of known pregnancies in the U.S. end in miscarriage during the first trimester of pregnancy. Miscarriage in the second trimester happens in 1-5% of pregnancies.

On Twitter, Andersen said the bill is “about workers’ rights and fairness.”

“I hope it gives people time to grieve and promotes greater openness about miscarriage,” Andersen wrote. “We should not be fearful of our bodies.”