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New Zealand grants automatic paid leave after miscarriage

The bereavement allowance gives employees three days’ leave when a pregnancy ends with a stillbirth.

Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

WORKING MOTHERS AND and their partners will be allowed to take paid leave after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth in New Zealand after a unanimous vote by lawmakers, in what is believed to be one of the first provisions of its type in the world.

The bereavement allowance, passed by parliament late Wednesday, gives employees three days’ leave when a pregnancy ends with a stillbirth, rather than forcing them to use their sick leave.

Lawmaker Ginny Andersen said a stillbirth should be recognised with dedicated bereavement leave but the stigma that surrounds the issue meant many people were reluctant to discuss it.

“The grief that comes with miscarriage is not a sickness; it is a loss, and that loss takes time – time to recover physically and time to recover mentally,” she told parliament.

Andersen said the leave extends to a woman’s partner if she suffers a miscarriage, as well as to people who were attempting to have a child through surrogacy.

She said the law continued the New Zealand parliament’s role in pioneering women’s rights, most notably on voting rights and equal pay.

“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 recognises the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth,” she said.

Ireland currently gives full maternity leave to women who have a stillbirth or miscarriage after the 24th week of pregnancy, but any other leave is at the discretion of an employer. 

Labour is putting forward a Bill which would allow up to 20 days of paid leave for early miscarriages and up to 10 days of leave for employees to access reproductive health treatments such as IVF. 

Senator Ivana Bacik, the party’s spokesperon on children and equality, said that Ireland should follow New Zealand’s example and increase the support available to women who go through a miscarriage. 

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“For too long, women who have suffered the pain of an early miscarriage are forced to return to work or take unpaid leave whilst trying to recover physically and emotionally,” she said.  “This is not a niche issue; as many as 14,000 women in Ireland suffer a miscarriage each year.”

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