Imagine how difficult it is to return to work immediately after experiencing the trauma and pain of losing your unborn child.
Some people are unfortunate enough to be unable to hold a baby in their arms but only in their hearts for the rest of their lives. One needs time to heal and overcome at least a portion of their heartbreak, if not entirely. But miscarriage leaves are one thing that Bangladesh has not yet enforced.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in 2019, women's participation in labour was 36.3%. Furthermore, a large percentage of women in Bangladesh make up the workforce in the ready-made garment (RMG) industry. They face challenges every day while working in shifts, running a family, and raising children.
Similarly, whether a woman works in the private sector or for the government, her needs are all equal in the eyes of law. In case of pregnancy, the government has successfully outlined paid maternity leaves to allow them to prepare for motherhood, both physically and mentally. Maternity benefits in Bangladesh are regulated by the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 (which later got amended as the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2013).
According to section 46 of the law, working mothers are to be allotted four months of maternity leave, eight weeks of prenatal leave, and eight weeks of postnatal leave. However, in case if the baby is stillborn or there is a miscarriage, there are no legislations.
However, Indonesia grants six weeks of fully paid leave for the mother at any point in the pregnancy (be it a miscarriage) and Taiwan grants five days to four weeks depending on the circumstances and necessity of the mother.
Maternity benefits in Bangladesh are regulated by the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 (which later got amended as the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2013). However, in case if the baby is stillborn or there is a miscarriage, there are no legislations.
The Philippines allows 60 days of fully paid leave for miscarriages at any stage of the pregnancy and this also applies to emergency terminations if required; Mauritius allows fully paid three weeks of leave for miscarriage and 14 weeks for a stillbirth under their Workers' Rights Act 2019.
Most notably, through the enactment of the Paternity Leave Act of 1996, the Philippines are also giving seven days paid leave for men whose wives suffered a miscarriage for many years now. These are acts of compassion, humanity, and are indeed great milestones for the respective governments.
India is also way ahead of us in this regard and has subsequently integrated miscarriage leave in their Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. It grants six weeks of fully paid leave for women who experience a miscarriage at any point in their pregnancy after they submit proof for miscarriage. Wilful termination of pregnancy or abortion is excluded for this sanction of leave.
India also provides leave for miscarriage-related illness (post-miscarriage complications. It is undeniable that, alongside the mental trauma faced by the once expecting mothers, they also undergo medical procedures in removal of the foetus or still baby. This can result in several illnesses.
A woman suffering from it shall, upon submission of such proof as may be required, be entitled to receive wages at the rate of maternity benefit for a maximum period of one month in addition to the period of absence allowed as maternity benefit.
On 24 March 2021, New Zealand joined the Philippines in the category of granting miscarriage leave for both parents. The labour minister of New Zealand, Ginny Andersen had said, "The grief that comes with miscarriage is not a sickness; it is a loss. That loss takes time – time to recover physically and time to recover mentally; time to recover with a partner".
Another crucial point is that the legislation not only applies for the mothers who have conceived physically but also for parents who were planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy. The bill allowed three days' paid leave.
Our country is a role model for women's empowerment, with a woman as Prime Minister and as the leader of the ruling opposition party, and our women accounting for more than a quarter of the working population, among other things.
We should start providing paid miscarriage leave. This will not only help the family financially but will also allow them to return to their previous lives without negatively impacting their mental and physical health, resulting in minimal disruption in their work performance.
Bangladesh Forum for Legal & Humanitarian Affairs (BFLHA) is a non-profit organisation that works in the field of social justice by promoting human rights, providing pro bono preliminary legal aid, fighting for rule of law, conducting extensive legal research, & organising humanitarian campaigns.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.