New Zealand Passes Bill Providing Bereavement Leave After Miscarriages

Few events in a person's life will evoke quite the stew of emotions like pregnancy does, but usually, at the heart of it is hope and optimism. It's a time to indulge in all your brightest dream for the future — which also, quite naturally, brings to mind an onslaught of worries.

Sadly, for all too many women and couples looking to start a family, pregnancies end prematurely in tragedy and they have to come home from the hospital empty-handed. It's a special kind of loss, one where would-be parents have to say goodbye before they've even had a chance to say hello.

Now, in New Zealand, lawmakers have recognized that miscarriages and stillbirth are indeed a loss and require some time to grieve.

Unsplash | Ben White

And so the nation's parliament unanimously passed a bill, The Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill (No 2), to provide three days of bereavement leave when pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth. The leave will apply to mothers and their partners, as well as parents using surrogacy to have a child, TVNZ reported.

"The bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave," said MP Ginny Andersen, who put forth the legislation. "Because their grief is not a sickness, it is a loss. And loss takes time."

Unfortunately, going by statistics, it's a leave that will be needed all too often.

Unsplash | Ashley Walker

About a quarter of all pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, the natural loss of a fetus within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Stillbirth, in which a fetus is lost after the 20-week mark, occurs in about 1% of all pregnancies.

That loss has a profound effect on would-be parents.

Unsplash | Kristina Tripkovic

It's not just a matter of grief. As the Harvard Business Review reported, pregnancy loss is connected with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and post-traumatic stress, all of which can be felt for an extended period of time, accompanied by anguish, heartache, guilt, and envy.

While some will want to jump right back in and try to get back to "normal," for many a return to the workplace immediately following such a loss is a big ask.

How pregnancy loss is dealt with in workplaces varies greatly.

Unsplash | Alesia Kazantceva

In India, women are eligible for up to six weeks' leave following a miscarriage, The Independent reported. However, the U.S. lacks a national statue regarding pregnancy loss and bereavement, leaving it up to states and employers.

While some, like Reddit, are generous — Reddit provides eight and a half weeks fully paid for employees following a pregnancy loss, as Today reported — others require their workers to tap into sick days, take unpaid leave, or simply work through it.

But now, in New Zealand at least, those would-be parents will have a bit more wiggle room to come to terms with their loss.

Unsplash | Külli Kittus

"The passing of this bill shows that once again New Zealand is leading the way for progressive and compassionate legislation, becoming only the second country in the world to provide leave for miscarriage and stillbirth," Andersen said, according to TVNZ.

"I hope this bill will go some way in recognizing the need for time and space to deal with the unimaginable grief that comes with losing a pregnancy."

What do you think? Should more countries mandate bereavement leave for pregnancy loss? Or should that be left up to employers? Let us know in the comments.

h/t: TVNZ

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