New Zealand’s parliament has unanimously passed legislation giving working mothers and their partners the right to paid leave after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth, 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 still 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, equal pay and decriminalising abortion.
“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.