NZ OKs Paid Leave for Parents Grieving 'Strange, Secret Birth'

Kiwis approve legislation that gives couples 3 days off to deal with loss after miscarriage or stillbirth
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2021 6:23 AM CDT
New Zealand Makes Big Move for Parents Grieving Miscarriage
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/fizkes)

"A miscarriage is a strange, secret birth that is also a death," wrote Kathryn van Beek in 2018 after suffering her own. That's why the New Zealand author is celebrating this week after her country's Parliament gave the green light to legislation that will offer three days of paid leave to couples who've experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, reports the New York Times. The new legislation, set to become law over the next few weeks, expands on current policy in New Zealand that mandates employers offer paid leave for stillbirths that occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy; now a loss at any point in a pregnancy qualifies. Today notes the leave also applies to would-be parents trying to have a child via surrogacy or adoption, though not for abortions. "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," says Ginny Andersen, the Labour MP who proposed the bill, per the Times.

Andersen adds it's important this type of paid leave is available so that people don't have to use sick leave in the event of a pregnancy loss. "Because their grief is not a sickness," she says, per Today. "It is a loss. And loss takes time." The Guardian notes that women in India are entitled to six weeks of paid leave after a miscarriage, while other places, including the UK and Ontario in Canada, have similar provisions for stillbirths. There are a handful of companies in the US that have started to offer paid leave for pregnancy loss: Reddit, for example, gives both mothers and fathers eight and a half weeks off, Today notes. But there's no nationwide mandate here that requires employers to offer this benefit, so many women feel pressured to return to work immediately after they experience a pregnancy loss. "Low-wage women in particular ... are often a complicated pregnancy away from losing their job," a rep for the Better Balance worker advocacy nonprofit says. (Read more New Zealand stories.)

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