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Last week, New Zealand approved paid leave for couples who experience a miscarriage or stillborn birth. Honestly, I am pretty shocked that New Zealand is only the second country to do so.
The allowance for paid time off was passed unanimously by New Zealand’s Parliament. Labour MP Ginny Andersen spearheaded bringing this bill to parliament and presented some shocking numbers during her statement; the one that surprised me the most was that one in four women in New Zealand will experience a miscarriage. Andersen and PM Jacinda Ardern are being praised all over the world for their forward-thinking action.
Without a question, it is important that women who experience miscarriages, as well as their partners, have time to mourn the loss of their child. After all the press around this, I was surprised to hear New Zealand’s paid leave only allows for three days of time off, which seems meagre in comparison to India’s six-week leave. However, I’ll give credit where it is due: New Zealand took a step in the right direction. I can only hope the next step would be to extend the leave from three days to at least a week, if not longer.
When you put this in perspective, New Zealand (and most other developed nations) is eons ahead of the US in regard to maternal rights. In the US, maternal leave is always a controversial topic and understandably so, as most employees only get 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which is ridiculous in every sense of the word. Only 12 weeks to birth a child, deal with any postnatal complications and settle into parenthood seems criminal.
That is about the same amount of time a semester of university takes from getting the syllabus to handing in your final exam. I can barely finish all my essays in that time frame, imagine caring for a newborn baby! Not to mention the hefty price tag of having a baby in America, which can cost $5,000 – $11,000. Yep, that means five to 11 racks just for having the baby; that doesn’t include diapers, food, a car seat and the millions of other things babies need.
For the sake of comparison, Canadians get 15 weeks of paid pregnancy leave, plus more time off for parental leave which can be upwards of around 40 weeks. That certainly trumps America’s 12 weeks. In Sweden, parents get a whopping 16 months per child and for 13 of those months they are paid 80 per cent of their regular salary.
People should not have to worry about how much time they can take off and how much it’ll cost to do so when it comes to the birth and wellbeing of their child. Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality for many people across the globe. I think New Zealand’s choice is setting a strong precedent for the reform of maternity laws. One can only hope the US and even Canada take notes on the strides other countries are making in the maternal law arena and choose to follow suit in the near future.