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New Zealand Has Passed A Landmark Bill Ensuring Paid Leave After A Miscarriage

When will Australia follow suit?

In a landmark move, New Zealand has passed a bill that allows people who have a miscarriage and their partners three days of paid bereavement leave.

The parliament voted to pass the Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage bill unanimously on Wednesday, which clarified any confusion around what employers were required to do. Employers were previously required to grant paid leave if someone had a stillbirth, but as of this new legislation, anyone who loses a pregnancy at any point can access the leave.

Prior to this, couples had to use sick leave when dealing with and mourning the loss of a pregnancy. It also extends to those who are in the process of surrogacy or adoption and lose a pregnancy, however, it does not apply to abortions.

“This is a bill about workers’ rights and fairness,” tweeted Ginny Andersen, the Labour member of Parliament who presented the bill. “I hope it gives people time to grieve and promotes greater openness about miscarriage. We should not be fearful of our bodies.”

Supporters of the bill hope that this will not only allow grieving couples more financial stability but also help shift the discussion and treatment of miscarriages, which are still considered a taboo topic by some people.

Andersen said that to the best of her knowledge, New Zealand is the second country of any in the world to pass such legislation. In her speech, she called for other nations to “recognize the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth” and to pass similar laws.

For what it’s worth, India brought in six weeks of paid leave for those who suffer miscarriages under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 1961. However, actually implementing it has been another story. Further provisions for people affected by pregnancy loss exist in Mauritius, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines.

In Australia, people are only entitled to unpaid leave after the occurrence of stillbirth after 12 weeks. The U.S. has no laws requiring employers to grant any leave at all to someone who experiences a miscarriage.

It’s a reflection of the taboo and misunderstanding of miscarriages, which are actually incredibly prevalent: around one in four pregnancies end in a miscarriage. In Australia, 282 women a day experience the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks—assuming they’re partnered, that amounts to 103,000 couples a year.

Samantha Payne, who established The Pink Elephants Support Network—an Australian charity that supports women who experience an early pregnancy loss, says that people still don’t talk about miscarriages, “and if anyone did talk about it, they’d whisper.”

Recent years have seen more high profile women and celebrities speaking about their miscarriages in an attempt to normalise and break the stigma around them. Some of these women include Beyoncé, Michelle Obama and Meghan Markle.

This is not the first time New Zealand has proved itself a leader with regard to women’s rights. Led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the government has recently passed legislation to provide free period products in all schools as well as passing a historic law that decriminalised abortion.

If you or someone you know needs pregnancy loss support, please contact⁣ Pink Elephants Support Network at 1800 882 436⁣, SANDS at 1300 072 637⁣, Bears of Hope at 1300 11 HOPE⁣ or Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636.

Lead image via Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images.

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