The future of paid-leave surrounding pregnancy is expanding in progressive directions.
New Zealand’s Parliament unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday granting parents who have a miscarriage three days of paid leave. Although many employers in the country already provide paid bereavement leave after losing a baby, the new law will protect parents from having to use their sick leave and, lawmakers hope will reduce the stigma of miscarriage. New Zealand is only the second country to give parents paid time to grieve after miscarrying — and is the only one to give it to both mothers and fathers.
“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,” Ginny Andersen, the Parliament member who drafted the bill, told the New York Times.
New Zealand had previously mandated paid leaves for couples who experience stillbirth after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The new bill, which is expected to become law in several weeks, expands this coverage to children lost anytime during pregnancy. However, it does not cover abortion, which the country decriminalized just last year.
“The grief and anguish and trauma experienced during an abortion and the fact that it’s not included in this bill make me uncomfortable — personally uncomfortable,” Member of Parliament Erica Stanford told The Guardian.
Australia provides unpaid leave for those who miscarry after 12 weeks, and in Britain, parents who have a stillbirth after 24 weeks qualify for paid leave. However, the only other country that requires parents be given paid leave after a miscarriage is India, which offers six weeks of paid leave. The country’s law applies only to mothers, and most women with miscarriages aren’t protected by it because they take part in informal work.
“I can only hope that while we may be one of the first, we will not be one of the last and that other countries will also begin to legislate for a compassionate and fair leave system that recognizes the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth,” Andersen said as she read the bill before Parliament for the last time.
Parents in the US aren’t entitled to paid leave after a miscarriage — or even to paid maternity leave after giving birth. Few US companies have taken their own initiative to offer employees paid leave after a miscarriage. Reddit is one of the few that does, with both moms and dads entitled to eight-and-a-half weeks off work while receiving a full paycheck.
“Business leaders don’t have to wait for Congress to enact strong #paidleave policies that support families. Paid leave makes businesses stronger and expands equity & opportunity. Let’s make it happen now!” tweeted National Partnership, a nonprofit that advocates for women and families.
New Zealand’s new policy is a good start, but not everyone thinks it goes far enough. “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 the Times. “I’m celebrating it, but I want to see us keeping this compassion going, and looking further into the needs of these parents.”