In society, with changes in traditional policies and practices, modern amendments seek their spaces in the legal documents. The same criteria are saw for the women in getting association with workplaces or ‘work to earn money specifically. In traditional times, women were not considered earning entities as they were meant to manage households and children, and hence no laws were there conforming to natural differences and requirements for women in jobs. But as notions changed and women started capturing substantial spaces in the earning sector, legal amendments and acts kept getting recognition and implementation with time. One of the major sectors for seeking protection and concern is the instance of miscarriage in a woman’s life. Many countries have been addressing this point and hence bringing new reforms regarding this. Recently, New Zealand approved a bill on three days of paid leave for miscarriage and stillbirth. This makes the scholars visit Indian history and evolution on this topic. This article aims to address the status of paid leaves for miscarriage mainly in the context of India with a brief overlook of the same in various other countries. It seeks to determine privileges and loopholes of laws in accepting the evolution of miscarriage leaves in society.
Necessity Of Paid Leaves For Miscarriage –
In a country like India, a sense of shame and stigma is attached to the process of miscarriage. People often look at it as a curse and neglect the grief that comes with it to the stakeholder. This leads to isolating the women during such times to handle the trauma when they require support and motivation the most. This initiative of introducing paid leaves for women is an attempt to accept and validate the requirement of woke laws for women when faced with miscarriage. This is a try to remove the stigma that is attached to people’s minds and to increase women’s participation in the employment sector. Women often tend to ignore the time that is required for them to overcome the grief that miscarriages come with, as it costs their job security and might lead to the end of their professional careers. Mental Health is affected along with its initial physical hurdles while miscarrying. The psychological pressure of workplace insecurity is a burdensome addition for females in such traumatic times. A study upon miscarriages in India highlighted that the country has the highest rate of stillbirths in India. It also pointed out that India has the highest chances of miscarriage in women during their first pregnancies as compared to other countries. This shows that miscarriages are common and important health issues that are partly aided by paid leaves from work to reduce the stress of financial need and job security to the least.
Status of Miscarriage Leaves in India-
India is placed among one of those very few countries that have paid leaves for miscarriage. Though, the sample space of people is quite limited for its application as it is only available to women. And that the implementation to even women has its limitations either due to unawareness or patriarchal pressure of the society.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 governs laws regarding maternity leaves and protection for women in workspaces in India. Section 3(j) defines miscarriage as the expulsion of contents from the uterus at any period before or during the 26th week of pregnancy. It doesn’t include practices of miscarriage which upon practice are punishable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. According to this Act, women are entitled to six weeks of paid leave immediately after the day of their miscarriage as per Section 9. They are required to provide proof of the miscarriage. Abortions are excluded from this. Moreover, as per Section 10, women suffering through illness arising out of miscarriage are also entitled to paid leave up to one month on submitting required medical proofs.
Although India has a law regarding paid leaves for miscarriage. It still has a long way to go for its properly effective implementation majorly in the unorganized sector of the country. Companies and corporate firms do not pay heed to the legal requirements for women employees. The employers’ unsupportive behavior in an unnatural happening as that of miscarriage and the trauma caused due to it leaves no option for women employees but only to bear with it. Hence, either the women are supposed to abstain from such demands or the employers avoid female recruitments as they come with costs. Some studies done from the economical lens of the country seem to highlight the loopholes of the women protection laws and the procedure following costs upon employers. As the MB Act addresses maternity leave and miscarriage leave which is for the benefit of women employees, it puts unreasonable pressure upon the employers who bear its costs. This leads to a negative impact upon female participation in meaningful roles associated with a company. The employers chose to not hire women at all or hire with conditions nullifying the objective of the MB Act. This keeps the potential of increasing gendered discrimination at the workplace. This identifies the loopholes in the law itself in determining the cost-bearers which makes the legislation counter-productive. The economical scholars suggest an active state role for assuring paid leaves for women during their needs. This, in my opinion, is way out by the private sector in not accepting this burden of paid leaves which, in a way, is seeking merely economical profiteering at the cost of social responsibilities. But, at this stance, this is the most practical and reasonable behavior on the part of private entities which highlights the need of the hour to bring in provisions allocating responsibilities in the MB Act to the state.
India has overtaken many countries in recognizing legal hurdles and bringing in laws protecting women in the workspaces. The requirement that stays is to bring in effective implementation and awareness about the same in the population.
Comparison With Other Countries-
While New Zealand introduced three days of paid leave recently, India has the provision from the last 60 years, which makes India excel in at least removing the legal hurdles very early. The Philippines provides miscarriage paid leave for around 60 days at any time of the pregnancy including abortions and emergency wilful terminations. Other countries include Indonesia (6 weeks) and Mauritius (6 weeks) for miscarriages and stillbirths having paid leaves. New Zealand grabbed the headlines as it has become the first white nation to do so.
The US doesn’t have any paid leave legal provisions for people in the country. It has unpaid leaves for miscarriage governed by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This provides for some protection against discrimination against women in the workforce but doesn’t cover most of the population as unpaid leaves are unaffordable and also the eligibility criteria exclude many of the seekers. Despite having left for both men and women for up to 12 weeks, the parental leave only reaches the objective for job security and family-work balance. It covers limited employees of large employers who can afford to give up income for 12 weeks and take the leave. Moreover, the non-supportive nature of the employers for employees in using leaves and heavy discouragement for it, lead to tensions in employees’ careers. Sweden is a country that doesn’t yet offer paid leaves for miscarriage but its provisions for pregnancy and other complications during pregnancy are very effective and noteworthy. In Sweden, both mother and father receive paid parental leaves. Due to this, Sweden excels in the Gender gap Index than many other high-income countries addressing equality to both men and women. Sweden’s model is a great example of a striking balance between the legitimate interests of employers and minimum employment discrimination in terms of gender, by providing equal opportunities to both men and women.
Paid leaves during the miscarriage of a child are addressed to reckon the women’s struggle at work. While India has laws addressing the issue at hand, which is appreciative but lacks proper implementation for justifying the legal provisions. The US is found to be a country that seriously lags in this direction as it doesn’t even have paid maternity leave during pregnancy of women which makes it the only high-income country to not have it when more than 120 countries across the world have paid maternity leave. The Sweden model which provides paid maternity leaves to both men and women is a model which through its excellent gender gap removal sets an example for countries. In my opinion, parental leave is a great initiative to look forward to, as it strikes a balance between the employer’s interests and the employee’s requirements. Hence, there is still a long way to go for India as it seeks proper implementation and awareness among people for their rights.