Couples who miscarry will be eligible for paid leave under New Zealand bill

Parliament House, Wellington. Credit: Junki Asano/Shutterstock.

Wellington, New Zealand, Mar 25, 2021 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- New Zealand is poised to become the second country in the world to offer couples paid leave after having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Under the bill, which passed its third reading in New Zealand’s unicameral parliament March 24, provides that the unplanned end of a pregnancy by miscarriage or still-birth constitutes grounds for bereavement leave for the mother and her partner or spouse, and that the duration of the bereavement leave should be up to three days.

The bill is worded in such a way to apply to adoptive parents of a baby, as well as to parents having a baby via a surrogate.

Ginny Anderson, an MP of the New Zealand Labour Party, introduced the bill in 2019.

The first country to introduce paid bereavement leave after miscarriage was India, where women are entitled to six weeks paid leave after a miscarriage.

“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,” Andersen said in a statement to local news.

She tweeted March 23 that it “is a Bill about workers’ rights and fairness. I hope it gives people time to grieve and promotes greater openness about miscarriage. We should not be fearful of our bodies.”

The bill now only needs royal assent—the approval of the governor-general—to become law.

New Zealand’s moves to care for women suffering miscarriages comes amid efforts to expand access to abortion.

In March 2020, New Zealand’s House of Representatives passed the Abortion Legislation Bill, legalizing abortion throughout the first 20 weeks of pregnancy and treating it as a health issue.

Abortion had previously been illegal in New Zealand except in cases where two doctors decided that a woman’s physical or mental health would be in “serious danger.” After 20 weeks in pregnancy, abortions were only allowed in cases where the mother’s life was at stake, or to prevent serious injury, according to Radio New Zealand.

The legislation also allows for abortions after 20 weeks, under certain circumstances. The nation’s Catholic bishops strongly opposed the legal change.

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