Not a few weeks have passed since the world congratulated and praised the New Zealand government to pass a bill that allows couples (yes you heard it right, both men and women!) to take a paid maternity leave for 3 days after they have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. The empathetic approach adopted by the government of New Zealand was largely celebrated, but is it really the first of its kind in the world? 

India is the first country that made provision for paid maternity leave (although, only for women) for those who have suffered miscarriages.

Section 4 of the 60 year old Maternity Act of 1961 states that women should not be asked to work for 6 weeks after the date of their delivery or a miscarriage. Section 9 of the said Act expressly provides for a paid leave of 6 weeks to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage. The benefits do not end here – women suffering from miscarriages are also legally enabled to take a paid leave for an additional one month in case if they suffer from any illness post the miscarriage [Sec. 10]. 

Indian women have been asked to work immediately after suffering from miscarriages by their employers. Not being aware of their own legal rights, they are forced to go back to work even if they are mentally and physically distressed. This issue is more than surface-level gender based; it is about the grave health issues embedded here. Living in the time of pandemic has made us realize the importance of a strong healthcare and insurance system in one’s country. We can no longer ignore the conditions of our healthcare system.

Therefore, what can we do to enable increase awareness about one’s rights? 

The implementation system needs to be revamped. Employers and HRs need to reconsider their policies in light of such laws. Awareness is a basic step however; it would be of no use until applied practically. Laws are made to simplify and ease out the problems faced by women, and not to be used as a reason to reconsider women’s positions in workplaces. 

At the end of the day, it is extremely necessary that maternity benefits are to be extended to both, men and women.