New Zealand approves bereavement leave for miscarriages

New Zealand has just approved a new bill that allows bereavement leave for miscarriages and stillbirths

Jacinda Ardern
(Image credit: Mark Tantrum / Stringer / Getty Images)

New Zealand has just passed legislation that allows people to take bereavement leave following a miscarriage or a stillbirth. This legislation applies to a variety of different people dealing with this type of loss.

New legislation has just been passed in New Zealand that allows people who have suffered from a miscarriage or stillbirth to take bereavement leave. This bill doesn’t just apply to the people who have physically suffered from this trauma but also to partners and parents who were planning to have a child through surrogacy or adoption.

This new legislation has been in the works for many years and now permits people to take three days of leave from work after suffering from a miscarriage or stillbirth. This new legislation does not apply to abortions that were decriminalised in New Zealand in 2020. 

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The Labour MP who presented and drafted this bill, Ginny Andersen, said that this new type of leave will protect people from using their sick leave to recover from this type of loss. “The grief that comes with miscarriage is not a sickness; it is a loss,” she said. “That loss takes time - time to recover physically and time to recover mentally, time to recover with a partner,” she said. 

The Labour MP explained that she wanted this legislation to give people options. “I felt that it would give women the confidence to be able to request that leave if it was required, as opposed to just being stoic and getting on with life, when they knew that they needed time, physically or psychologically, to get over the grief,” she said.

Ginny Andersen then wrote on Twitter, “Final reading of my Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill. This 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.”

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Jan Logie, a Green Party MP,  stated that this legislation helps to break the taboo nature of miscarriages and stillbirths. “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 Green Party MP continued to speak out about the stigma around miscarriage and stillbirths.“It is an incredibly normal experience, but normal doesn’t mean easy; it doesn’t mean without pain. But we have for a long time, through silence and stigma, forced women - primarily women - into actually just pretending as if it hasn’t happened,” she said.

Many people are pleased with the steps that New Zealand has taken but some are unsatisfied with just three days of leave. One person wrote on Twitter, “Only 3 days? How ridiculous when you consider the physical recovery period of birth or miscarriage is much longer than that. Not to mention the trauma.” 

Another compared the leave to what is available in her country, “After my daughter was stillborn I still received 15 weeks maternal leave (I think it was called) here in Canada. Was so completely grateful I was allowed that time to grieve and try to heal.”

However many are just pleased that steps are being taken in New Zealand. One individual wrote on Twitter, "This is fantastic. After a missed miscarriage at 9 weeks I sorely needed time off. I took a week paid sick leave. I’m fortunate that I have good sick pay. This should be a right for all women." 

Another said, "New Zealand always setting an example for the rest of world. What a courageous women leadership to bring gender equality issues at the heart of policies and laws."