AUCKLAND, New Zealand – New Zealand’s Parliament unanimously passed legislation Wednesday that would give couples experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth three days of paid leave, putting the country at the forefront of those providing such benefits.
Employers in New Zealand, like other countries, had already been required to take paid leave in the event of stillbirth, when a fetus is lost after 20 weeks or more. The new legislation will extend that permission to anyone who loses a pregnancy at any time, removing any ambiguity. The measure is expected to become law in the coming weeks.
“I felt like it would give women the confidence to be able to apply for that permission if necessary, rather than just being stoic and moving on with life, when they knew they needed time, physically or psychologically, to get through the situation. pain, ”said Ginny Andersen, the Labor member of Parliament who drafted the bill.
Ms Andersen added that she had not been able to find comparable legislation anywhere in the world. “We could well be the first country,” he said, adding: “But all the countries where New Zealand is usually compared to legislate for the 20-week mark.”
The new law does not apply to abortions, Andersen added. New Zealand decriminalized abortion last year, ending the country’s status as one of the few wealthy nations that limits the reasons for terminating a pregnancy in the first half.
The new law, which has been in development for several years, comes amid a broader global reckoning of women at work. Women have long struggled to balance the requirements of their employers with issues like pregnancy, sometimes leading them to miss out on advancement opportunities and other opportunities.
In Australia, people who undergo a miscarriage are entitled to unpaid leave if they lose a fetus after 12 weeks, while in Great Britain, prospective parents who experience a stillbirth after 24 weeks are eligible for a paid leave. The United States does not require employers to license anyone who suffers a miscarriage.
Up to 20 percent of all known pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage, according to the Mayo Clinic. In New Zealand, which has a population of five million, the Health Ministry estimates that one or two pregnancies in 10 will end in miscarriage.
The Sands New Zealand charity, which supports parents who have lost a pregnancy, says that between 5,900 and 11,800 miscarriages or stillbirths occur each year. More than 95 percent of miscarriages occur in the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy, according to data from the New Zealand College of Midwives.
A miscarriage or stillbirth remains a tense and painful topic, one that is difficult to speak about publicly or seek support, health advocates say.
“If you call the hospital and say, ‘I think I’m aborting my baby,’ many women will say, ‘I felt like I was the first person in the world to have a miscarriage,’” said Vicki Culling, Baby Loss Educator who has lobbied for better support for grieving parents in New Zealand.
“The foundations of your world just crumble, because you hope to have this beautiful baby, and when that baby dies, either in the womb or shortly after birth, everything is shattered.”
Ms Culling applauded the New Zealand legislation as a first step, but said there was more to be done.
“You get three days of paid leave, maybe you bury your baby or have a service, and then you go back to work, and you carry on, and then what? That is my concern, ”he said.
“I’m celebrating, but I want us to maintain this compassion and delve into the needs of these parents.”