Stillbirth Foundation Australia chief executive Leigh Brezler said the long-awaited changes would go a long way to helping remove the stigma around stillbirth.
“Parents of stillborn babies are parents too, and six weeks is not enough time to grieve the loss of their babies, let alone recover from all of the physical side effects of pregnancy and birth,” she said.
There are almost 2200 babies stillborn every year in Australia, or about six each day, a rate that hasn’t changed for two decades. Many more families lose their child soon after birth from medical complications.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the changes addressed recommendations from a Senate committee in 2018 about providing more support to parents at times of tragedy.
“This change to unpaid leave entitlements will give these parents the time and space they need to
grieve the loss of their baby, without having to worry about returning to work before they’re ready to do so,” he said.
Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally, who has advocated the changes for years, said it would make a huge difference to parents at one of the hardest times in their lives.
“Imagine being a mother who’d given birth to a stillborn baby and being told by your employer you had to come back to work and you weren’t entitled to parental leave,” she said.
“For so long families of stillborn babies have suffered in silence, in a silent grief. People have been unwilling to acknowledge their child, to use their name or to acknowledge that the parents themselves are suffering.”
The changes will also allow parents of premature babies to pause their scheduled leave while their child is in hospital, after many found they would have little or no leave left once their child was ready to come home.