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Paving way for more humane laws

Last week, New Zealand passed another groundbreaking legislation — this time, for couples who go through a miscarriage or stillbirth. New Zealand approved the new law allowing three-day paid leave after miscarriages or stillbirth without the couple having to tap into their sick leave.

So many women go through miscarriages every day. So many just schedule a D&C as if going for a flu shot and are expected to show up at work. Often, no one at work even knows that the woman they are working with, who is sitting next to them is carrying an enormous amount of emotional, mental and physical pain.

So when New Zealand passed the bill, that too unanimously, that just restored some of my faith in humanity.

This bill prompted me to look around the world to see who else has such compassionate, humane laws in place. And sadly, not many countries do.

India was one of the first countries to acknowledge the need for a miscarriage leave and passed the law to give up to six weeks of paid leave under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act of 1961. Indian law also allows for up to a month of paid leave in case of sickness due to miscarriage. This also extends to premature birth, medical complications arising from pregnancy as well. However, the law in India is only restricted to women unlike the one in New Zealand in which the partners can also take a three-day paid leave.

In Canada, only those losing a baby at or after 20 weeks are eligible for maternity benefits. There is however no proper legislation mandating employers to offer paid leave or sick days for losses earlier than 20 weeks.

And there isn’t a lot of data around miscarriages in Canada but according to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, roughly 15 to 20 per cent pregnancies end in miscarriages. So roughly 15 to 20 per cent of women who are pregnant, go through loss and have to grieve without proper time off to sit in their grief and not worry about losing their pay or losing their jobs. And nearly that many partners have no such provisions of time off either.

After a loss of pregnancy, women and their partners need some time to grieve at least without having to tap into their sick leaves. It is grief, not sickness. So having to cut into sick leave or just not being able to take some time off after a loss of this magnitude seems…unfair, right? Sure, no one can overcome grief like this in three days or six weeks or a lifetime either but it is at least a movement in the right direction.

Here is to hoping Canada takes steps in the right direction too.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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