New Zealand’s parliament has voted unanimously to allow mothers and their partners three days of paid leave after miscarriages or stillbirths, without having to tap into their sick leave allowance.
The bill was initiated by a member of the ruling Labor Party, Ginny Andersen. According to her, one in four women have had a miscarriage in New Zealand.
Only a year ago, the country decriminalized abortion and changed a law that had been issued in 1977. It allowed the procedure up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
The purpose of this new bill is to “give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave”, Andersen said, while also adding that, “their grief is not a sickness, it is a loss. And loss takes time.”
New Zealand is a part of the very few places in the world where there is a law put in place for this situation, but India is the only other country with as much extended leave as in New Zealand. Usually, it is not possible to have a paid leave after a miscarriage but only after a stillbirth.
A miscarriage happens when there is a pregnancy loss earlier than 20 weeks of gestation. After that point, a pregnancy loss is called a stillbirth. Nowadays we know that between 10 and 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage and often before the 12th week of pregnancy. At 20 weeks, stillbirth affects 1 in 100 pregnancies.
“The passing of this bill shows once again New Zealand is leading the way for progressive and compassionate legislation,” said Andersen. New Zealand was the first country to give voting rights to women in 1893 and was also a pioneer on the different issues around women’s rights.
The leave will not only be applied to mothers and their partners but also to parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy.
However, the bill will not be applied to people who end their pregnancy through abortion. National MP Erica Stanford supported the bill, but she also added that “the grief and anguish and trauma experienced during an abortion and the fact that it’s not included in this bill makes me uncomfortable”.
We can only hope now that more countries will follow this decision.