It has been a good week for care and compassion in Australia.
As part of the state budget on Tuesday, NSW announced that it would become the first state in Australia to introduce paid bereavement leave – not sick leave – for public sector employees who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Employees will be eligible for five days of paid leave and this will extend to male employees affected by a partner’s miscarriage or stillbirth, whether or not their partner works in the public sector. It is hoped employers in the private sector will introduce similar policies.
“Having a miscarriage is not an illness – it’s a loss that should be recognised. As the largest employer in the State, the NSW Government will, for the first time, offer 5 days of leave for women who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth.” #nswbudget #nswpol— Liberal Party NSW (@LiberalNSW) June 22, 2021
"We know that losing a child even in the early stages of pregnancy can be devastating…We want NSW government employees to know the government has their back when tragedies like these occur, and that they will have time to process their loss without having to worry about financial or work-related pressures," NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.
Following the NSW announcement, the federal government has also committed to giving parents who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth two days of paid leave under new federal legislation that will be introduced on Thursday.
Australia’s new policies come just months after New Zealand became one of the first countries to implement a bereavement leave policy for parents who experience miscarriage or stillbirth.
At the time, New Zealand Labour MP Ginny Anderson said she hoped other countries would follow New Zealand’s example in legislating for “a compassionate and fair leave system that recognises the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth”.
While it will take parents more than a matter of days to grieve the loss of a child, Australia has undoubtedly taken a step in the right direction in terms of providing compassionate and practical support to the one in four Australian women and their partners affected by miscarriage.