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New Zealand: Bill Providing for Bereavement Leave Following Miscarriage Passed

(Mar. 26, 2021) On March 24, 2021, the New Zealand Parliament unanimously passed the Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill (No 2). The Bill “makes it clear 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 3 days.”

The Bill was introduced in June 2019, replacing the previous member’s bill that had been drawn from the members’ ballot in August 2018. It resulted from concerns being raised by advocates regarding an “ambiguity in the bereavement provisions of the Holidays Act 2003 as they apply to miscarriage. The main ambiguity is whether an employee’s entitlement to three days’ bereavement leave on the death of a child applies where a pregnancy ends in miscarriage or still-birth.”

As explained by the Education and Workforce Committee, which considered the Bill,

[a]t present, the Holidays Act provides for bereavement leave after an employee experiences the death of a child. However, it does not make clear whether this provision includes unborn children or developing embryos. This ambiguity may lead to disputes between employees and employers over entitlement to leave. This bill seeks to clarify this by providing specific provisions related to bereavement suffered from the unplanned end of a pregnancy.

Under the Bill, the entitlement for bereavement leave in the case of a miscarriage or stillbirth applies to mothers and their partners, as well as to parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy. There is no entitlement for bereavement leave following an abortion.

The Bill’s sponsor, MP Ginny Anderson, stated upon the passage of the Bill that

[t]he passing of this bill shows that once again New Zealand is leading the way for progressive and compassionate legislation, becoming only the second country in the world to provide leave for miscarriage and stillbirth[.]

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.