• Leah Norman

Bereavement Leave Updates

In March of this year, Parliament unanimously passed the Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Act (No 2) 2019, which is legislation giving mothers and their partners three days of bereavement leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth.

We all know that when your employee experiences the death of someone close to them, bereavement leave can give them time to step away from work and come to terms with their loss without worrying about the impact on their income.

However we are increasingly seeing governments around the globe pass more progressive and compassionate legislation around families and pregnant women, and along these lines, New Zealand's most recent legislation changes last month mean that as of 31 March 2021 employees now have the right to take paid time off work in the unfortunate event of a miscarriage or stillbirth.

This is a significant change to our current legislation, as each year, thousands of New Zealand parents experience the loss of a baby before, or almost immediately after, birth. The New Zealand College of Midwives, put the figure at around one in four women, with more than 95 per cent of miscarriages occurring in the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy and stillbirths occur in about one in every 200 pregnancies.

This law change allows an employee to take up to three days’ paid bereavement leave if they or their partner experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth. This gives both women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave.

People planning to have a child through surrogacy or adoption are also eligible, if the pregnancy ends by miscarriage or stillbirth.

Bereavement leave gives an employee time to grieve and to take care of matters to do with the bereavement. This can be taken at any time and for any purpose relating to the death, miscarriage or stillbirth, and does not have to be taken straight away or on consecutive days.

The existing rules on bereavement continue to apply. Employees become eligible for bereavement leave after six months (although this is currently under review as part of the Holidays Act overhaul - watch this space).

Employees are not required to produce proof of pregnancy, miscarriage or stillbirth.

The law change does not provide bereavement leave for terminations. Depending on the circumstances, mothers may be eligible to use sick leave following a termination.

Disclaimer This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.

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