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Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
July 8, 2024 ·  3 min read

New Zealand is giving bereavement leave from work to women who have miscarriages

New Zealand is proving yet again that it is leading the way in terms of compassionate governing. The country’s parliament recently unanimously passed a bill that legislates paid bereavement leave after miscarriages and stillbirths. This makes them only the second country in the world to do this. India is the only other. (1)

New Zealand Mandates Paid Bereavement Leave After Miscarriages

Bereavement leave after an employee loses a loved one is not a controversial topic. Of course, when someone loses a parent, spouse, sibling, or child, they will need time off to grieve. What are often not considered in this area are miscarriages and stillbirths.

This past week, New Zealand passed a law that requires all workplaces to offer three days of paid leave after any employee – male or female – experiences the loss of a pregnancy or a stillbirth. (1)

“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,” said Labor Party MP Ginny Anderson, who introduced the bill. “I hope that this bill will go some way in allowing women to feel more comfortable about talking about miscarriage and that they feel comfortable reaching out for support and for help in what is a huge physical and emotional loss,” (1)

The bill is only the second in the world behind India, which provides six weeks of paid leave for women who experience miscarriage and stillbirth. (2)

“The bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave. Because their grief is not a sickness. It is a loss. And loss takes time,” Anderson explained. (2)

Miscarriage Is A Loss

The reason why there is an apparent grey area surrounding whether or not miscarriage and stillbirth are included in bereavement leave is that it is often viewed more like a routine health issue. In terms of frequency, that is true: 17% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. This is a massive amount. (3)

“Because it is medically common, the impact of miscarriage is often underestimated,” says Janet Jaffe, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Center for Reproductive Psychology in San Diego and co-author of the 2010 book “Reproductive Trauma: Psychotherapy with Infertility and Pregnancy Loss Clients.” “But miscarriage is a traumatic loss, not only of the pregnancy but of a woman’s sense of self and her hopes and dreams of the future. She has lost her ‘reproductive story,’ and it needs to be grieved.” (4)

It can also be incredibly traumatic for the woman’s partner. They, too, go through the emotions of excitement followed by the loss of the future they were imagining. On top of that, they are trying to support their grieving partner at the same time.

Women who experience miscarriage are at a much higher risk for developing anxiety and depression later on. If the mother already has a child, she may struggle to meet their emotional and physical needs. (4)

A Step Forward For Women And Families

This bill is an excellent example of how governments can better support families and especially their female citizens. 

“I’d like to acknowledge the one in four New Zealand women who have had a miscarriage,” said Anderson. “I hope this bill will go some way in recognising the need for time and space to deal with the unimaginable grief that comes with losing a pregnancy,” (5)

Hopefully other countries will follow New Zealand’s suit and adapt laws like this one themselves.

Keep Reading: Dad’s heartbreaking post after losing partner to postnatal depression: “Seek help early on”

Sources

  1. New Zealand approves paid leave after miscarriage, and encourages the world to follow.” CNN. Rob Picheta. March 25, 2021.
  2. New Zealand passes bereavement leave for miscarriages — what it means.” Today.  Rachel Paula Abrahamson. March 24, 2021.
  3. Women Now Have As Many Miscarriages As Abortions.” Time. Mandy Oaklander.December 11, 2015.
  4. Miscarriage and loss.” APA. Elizabeth Leis-Newman. June 2021.
  5. Parliament unanimously passes bereavement leave for miscarriages, stillbirths — second in the world to do so.” TV NZ. March 24.