New Zealand approves paid leave after miscarriages

Politicians hope bill will promote ‘greater openness about miscarriage’

Rory Sullivan
Thursday 25 March 2021 09:00 GMT
The Beehive, a parliamentary building, is pictured in Wellington, New Zealand.
The Beehive, a parliamentary building, is pictured in Wellington, New Zealand. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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New Zealand’s parliament has unanimously approved a bill giving mothers and their partners three days of paid leave following miscarriages.

The legislation, thought to be a world first, is expected to come into force in the coming weeks.

Ginny Andersen, the Labour politician who proposed the bill, said New Zealand could “well be the first country” to offer paid time off to couples who lose a child at any stage of a pregnancy.

Like in some other nations, employers in New Zealand already give workers paid leave in the event of a stillbirth, when a baby is lost after 20 weeks of gestation. The new measure extends this provision to miscarriages as well.

By comparison, the UK only offers paid bereavement leave to would-be parents who experience a stillbirth after 24 weeks.

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Speaking about the bill before its final reading on Wednesday, Ms Andersen tweeted: “I hope it gives people time to grieve and promotes greater openness about miscarriage. We should not be fearful of our bodies.”

The Labour politician praised the writer Kathryn van Beek for campaigning for the law change after she had a miscarriage.

Ms van Beek said at the time that she wanted to break the taboo surrounding miscarriages, writing that “a miscarriage is a strange, secret birth that is also a death”.

Jan Logie, a Green MP, said the new law would help to break the culture of silence surrounding lost pregnancies.

“That silence that has caused so much harm has, in part, started to be broken by this debate and by parliament’s attention,” she said.

The bill does not apply to those who end pregnancies through abortion, which was only decriminalised in New Zealand last year.

Around one or two in every 10 pregnancies result in a miscarriage, according to New Zealand’s health ministry.

Sands New Zealand, a charity which supports parents who have lost a pregnancy, estimates that there are between 5,900 and 11,800 miscarriages and stillbirths every year in New Zealand.

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